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Death Toll Rises in Colorado Floods; Secretary Kerry, Foreign Minister Lavrov Negotiate in Geneva; U.N. to Report on Syrian Chemical Weapons Monday; Newlywed Murder Suspect's Attorney: It Was An Accident; Suspect Detained In Tennessee Slayings; United Will Honor $5 To $10 Tickets

Aired September 13, 2013 - 20:00   ET



Good evening, everyone.

We begin tonight with breaking news. The death toll rising, along with waters in Colorado, four have now perished in the flooding. Eighty more people are unaccounted for. Thousands awaiting rescue in towns cut off in floodwaters. You're going to hear in a moment from a family who escaped the flooding on foot, hiking over mountains and crossing swollen streams.

First, what it is like now on the rain-soaked ground.

Ana Cabrera joins us from Longmont, Colorado.

Ana, what's the latest?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this is in Boulder County, one of the hardest hit counties in Colorado from the flooding. But you can see behind me the ground is dry. We seen sunshine this afternoon bringing a lot of relief to the residents who have now made their way out of some of those trapped areas. In fact, the National Guard is extremely busy today assisting local and state authorities in getting into the areas completely cut off 24 hours ago.

And we have spoken to those residents. Many of them brought here to this church in Longmont down from the town of lions where they were rescued on high clearance vehicles from the National Guard and they are talking about the relief they feel. Now, that they have food, they have fresh water, they have electricity, all things they didn't have when they were trapped up in line.

We have also heard of the National Guard getting up in the air, getting up above Jamestown, another area hit hard and being able to rescue some of those residents over the ground by air, Anderson.

COOPER: And at this point, 80 people are still unaccounted for. Are there active search going on? Is the water still too high in some of these areas still?

CABRERA: Yes, despite the dry ground here, looks can be deceiving. There are still very dangerous flood waters over much of Colorado right now. And so, we are told those 80 people unaccounted for, they are hopeful are OK and simply don't have phone service and haven't been able to make contact perhaps with the people looking for them. So, they aren't even calling them missing at this point. I think the wording is very crucial here. They are just calling them unaccounted for and they are optimistic that they are going to be found and be OK.

COOPER: Ana, thanks very much.

Joining me is now is Katie Farmer.

Katie, I understand you are searching for your parents. What is going on?

KATIE FARMER, PARENTS TRAPPED IN FLOOD ZONE (via phone): I know where they are. They are both at my dad's house which is on high ground and I'm told, you know, really safe right now. We are just kind of waiting to see if they are going to be able to come down to boulder on the -- I hear one now -- I'm sorry. So, they might be flown down today or tomorrow. We are just going to see and my mom's house is gone.

COOPER: Your mom's house is gone?

FARMER: Yes, she's at my dad's house which is on higher ground there. They are divorced and her house is in the creek. It was right across the street from the man that was killed, so held it.

COOPER: I'm so sorry to hear that. How did you get that word? Were you able to talk with your mom then?

FARMER: I have been over the last couple days monitoring online and until about 2:00 p.m. yesterday, I was able to talk to them on the phone and people in town were communicate that way. And then, so I got off the phone with my mom and she told me that she had someone that told her the house was off the foundation sliding towards the creek. And then about -- after I got off the phone, ten minutes later I heard from a friend who had just thought and a call from his father saying he watched it going to the creek.

COOPER: My goodness. How is your mom holding up?

FARMER: I don't know. I haven't been talk to her. I wasn't able to get hold her up when I found out about the house. Probably not the best, but I mean, she's with people that love her and this town is going to rally behind everyone that lost their homes in this.

COOPER: But you're pretty sure she's coming in on a flight with your dad.

FARMER: We don't know -- yes, I mean, we don't know if it will be tonight or tomorrow. We are kind of waiting for word. We are here at the airport and no one has really been able to tell us whether they will continue tonight or start tomorrow.

COOPER: I'm so glad they are safe in getting out of there.

Katie, thank you so much and I wish you the best to you and your family.

FARMER: Thank you. Appreciate that.

COOPER: Some of the stories that are emerging from this flood are extraordinary. A short time ago I spoke with three survivors, Eric Ashley, his daughter Martine and his wife Lisa, who saw the flood waters rising, escaped on foot hiking and climbing their way to safety.


COOPER: Where were you when the water started to rise?

ERIC ASHLEY, FLOOD WATER SURVIVOR: We were at five miles up Route 7 outside of lions in that canyon and we were at our house there and, on the other side of the river where the bridge to get to the actually road and at the point we realized the water was rising up, the bridge was already covered. So, yes, that's where we were.

COOPER: How difficult was it for you to get out?

ASHLEY: Oh, I don't know, something like epic might be a good descriptive word. We have four adults, three children and two dogs and it was bush whacking and scrambling up no trails and ledges and we only saw one rattlesnake, one dead elk and long and grueling was our journey yesterday.

COOPER: Martine, was it scary for you?

MARTINE LIMOGE, FLOOD WATERS SURVIVOR: No, it really wasn't scary -- it was just OK, I want to get to a designation. The rivers were a little hairy, but no, I wouldn't call it scary.

COOPER: Can you ask your mom what it was like for her?

MARTINE LIMOGE: What was it like for you, mom?

LISA LIMOGE, FLOOD WATERS SURVIVOR: Exhausting, and it was scary. It was -- we had some situations that we're glad we got through and survived it.

COOPER: And Eric, I mean, for people who have not been through something like this, explain what it's like. I mean, how quickly the water starts to rise.

ASHLEY: Oh, well, our neighbors who traveled with us on the way out, the Doogans, Jonathan came up at about 11:00 that night and said that they were worried, their house is lower than we were and worried and -so we, of course, invited them to come up whenever they needed to. And at that point, I put on a head lamp and went down and looked and already the bridge was covered with water and jumping up and down, and the -- probably some of the scariest stuff of all mother nature doing her thing is the sounds that were going on as the river was tearing trees and boulders out and the boulders start rolling down the river and the whole ground shakes.

COOPER: How deep were the rivers that you were crossing?

ASHLEY: Well, yesterday I call them rivers. They are definitely -- these are the things that usually don't have water in them at all but every depression that you came to, every gully or however you want to refer to it is indicated with water. So, the deepest one that we had to make human chain across, we had no rope because our climbing equipment went with our other possessions. So, we had to make human chain across. The deepest that I was standing was waste deep, lots of debris coming down and -- but the main thing is to get everybody across and avoid injury so everybody could keep moving.

The young boys that were with us were getting pretty tired as the day was going and we did find a cave, but we opted to keep pushing, so we made it, so that was good.

COOPER: Martine, you said you weren't scared. I'm scared listening to this. You must be very, very brave.


COOPER: Listen. I'm so glad that you and your neighbors who you left with are OK and you sound like a great family to be neighbors with.

Eric and Martine and Lisa, thank you so much.

ASHLEY: Thank you.



COOPER: It is amazing what they went through. They are still recovering from a natural disaster along the Jersey Shore tonight in the towns of Seaside Park, Seaside Heights. However, that recovery from Sandy they have been dealt, a fiery blow.

Today, as the embers cool from the inferno that swept down the boardwalk last night, people have taken two hard hits began taking stock.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is stores on fire.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't go in there.

COOPER (voice-over): The fire started here at Kohr Brothers frozen custard shop at 2:15 on Thursday afternoon.

CHRISTINE HEMINGWAY, CUSTOMER INSIDE SHOP WHERE FIRE BEGAN: There was smoke coming up through the boardwalk and it was a little gray smoke and then all of a sudden, it turned to black smoke and we ran away and turn around again and there was flames coming out of the building.

COOPER: Despite firefighters arriving within minutes, the blaze was quickly out of control. By 4:00 p.m. it was a six-alarm fire. The flames fed by winds up to 25 miles an hour. As the blaze spread north it engulfed the iconic fun town pier, one of the few structures in this amusement park left standing from Sandy.

More help arrived to battle the blaze. A firefighter convention was being held 90 miles away with 400 firefighters from 30 fire companies. One bit of luck for a town whose boardwalk was now completely consumed by flames.

MAYOR BILL AKERS, SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NEW JERSEY: We are just so grateful for what these gentlemen do every single day and putting their lives on the line to save life and property and other communities not just their own.

COOPER: To save more property, authorities ripped out part of the newly rebuilt boardwalk to create fire line would proved to be a pivotal decision. The line stopped the fires ferocious advance.

Finally, after nine hours, firefighters got the blaze under control. Smokes subsided. No lives were lost, although some police and firefighters are being treated for injuries.

Authorities still don't know what caused the fire and until they do, it's being treated as a crime scene.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We are going to preserve evidence. WE are going to let the ocean county prosecutors' office lead the investigation with others we spoke about and when they have something to say, they will be ready to say it.

COOPER: In the end, 30 businesses were destroyed and community shaken but resilient.

DAVID BOUKILI, BOARDWALK BUSINESS OWNER: We live in the greatest country in the world because everybody gets up and gets together and stands together and we are stronger that way. We get to rebuild again. Trust me. We going to be stronger.


COOPER: And we have heard that from just about everybody in that community that they will rebuild. You can follow me on twitter, #ac360 tonight.

Next breaking news out of the U.S., Russian talks in Geneva. The two sides trying to hammer out a deal on Syria's chemical arsenal.

Later, the lawyer for the woman accused of shoving her newlywed husband off a cliff is speaking out. New developments when "360" continues.


COOPER: Welcome back.

There is breaking news on Syria. Sources telling us that U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon is expected Monday to present the weapons inspectors' report to Security Council. Also word late today that days of high level talks over how to dismantle Syria's warfare capability have gone into overtime and could be bearing come fruits. Secretary of state Kerry and his Russian counterpart will be spending at least another day at a negotiating table in Geneva.

Jim Sciutto is in Geneva following a late development and he joins us now.

So, what are we hearing about these talks? There is some word about possible progress?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, you talk about over time until a few minutes ago, they were meeting and it's past 2:00 in the morning here in Geneva. In fact, I saw Secretary Kerry walking back in to the building about 20 minutes ago out taking a walk to get fresh air because they have been talking so much. And that's a good sign as a U.S. official here told me they wouldn't be meeting if they didn't have something to talk about.

We did hear earlier today that they have their first sign of hard progress which is the U.S. and Russia coming to an agreement on the scale, the scope of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles. That sounds modest, but is important because U.S. officials have been telling me that is the first test of how the Syrians and Russians are about moving forward in that how forthcoming they are about giving all the details about how many chemical weapons they have and what quantities and where they are all hidden.

COOPER: And obviously, one of the things that's been discussed is whether or not the U.S. would continue to insist on a threat of force in a Security Council resolution. Do we know details on that?

SCIUTTO: Well, we are hearing out of Washington that the U.S. may be backing off or at least realizing that they won't be able to get a resolution through the Security Council because of Russia's veto, they would include a trigger for the use of force.

That's important here because that's the main sticking point between Kerry and Lavrov, this over hanging threat of force. Kerry saying that the Syrians wouldn't even be here talking about this, the Russians if the U.S. hadn't threatened force. The Russians saying we can't move forward until the U.S. takes it off the table. So, you know, it's important here in those talks. That is going into this, no one really thought you would get a Security Council resolution that had an absolute forced trigger. And even if the resolution doesn't have that trigger, the U.S. can still reserve its right to act to use military force if it says that it's necessary and that's the direction we are being pushed by U.S. officials now.

COOPER: So, I mean, are they talking again tomorrow? What is next for Kerry in all this? SCIUTTO: It goes into tomorrow, another day and then that's -- like I said, a good sign because they said they wouldn't be talking if they didn't have something to talk about and weren't making progress.

From here, Kerry is going to Jerusalem. He is going to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, both to talk Mideast peace but also to give an update on these talks. Then Kerry, ever the world traveler is going to go on to Paris and meet with the French and the British foreign ministers to give them an update on these talks and build some support. He is clearly going around updating, but also making sure that everybody is on board with what they hope will be at least the outlines of an agreement.

COOPER: Jim Sciutto, appreciate the update and late-night reporting. Thank you.

I want to bring in the former defense secretary William Cohen now who is well acquainted with the reigning in WMD and with Sergey Lavrov's skill as a negotiator.

Secretary Cohen, thanks for being with us. You dealt with Mr. Lavrov in the past. You called him a very skilled tough negotiator. These discussions now going to a third day tomorrow, can you give insight how this happens? What is going on behind closed doors? How does it actually work?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, Secretary Kerry is not dealing with a strong hand, frankly. And I think the Russians are prepared to explode that. He is -- Secretary Kerry is insisting that we reserve the right to use military force against the Syrian forces, and Mr. Lavrov is going to say that has got a precondition has to go.

So, it look as if we are going to yield on that particular point if there is a hope for getting a U.N. Security Council resolution. The French and the British and the U.S. have insisted on having some kind of a trigger namely if they don't compile with the dismantling of their weapons that we can take military action. But I think that's unlikely.

I'm hopeful that something goodwill come out of this. But frankly, unless you have an overall peace settlement, the notion you are going to have in dismantling of chemical weapons during a civil war, I think, is unrealistic.

So, it looks as if this is a long struggle to gain control of them, identify them while they are moving him around et cetera. So, I don't know that the United States has a very strong hand at this point. I hope that secretary Kerry can play it for what it is.

COOPER: So, you don't believe that it's really possible for Syria to give up their chemical weapons for international inspectors to be on the ground, to secure sites and ultimately destroy these weapons in the midst of a civil war? I know, (INAUDIBLE) it has never been done before. It is possible that never been done before. You are saying, it is very unlikely that can even began. COHEN: I think it's very unlikely, highly unlikely it can be done. One hopes (INAUDIBLE) --

COOPER: Because of the danger on the ground?

COHEN: The danger on the ground, you got rebels who are going to resist any kind of a settlement at this point. They are disheartened by the fact that the United States has backed away from using force. The president has threatened the use of force but it has to be a credible military threat. The fact is there is under whelming support from the Congress in the country for the use of force. I think the Russians are exploiting this. President Putin has gone from being the prince of darkness to the piper of peace. That may last for awhile. He can enjoy that particular bump in popularity domestically, perhaps internationally. But I doubt very much whether the Russians are ever going to agree to a situation where the United States can use force, you know, with the support of the U.N. against Syria, simply because of non-compliance. I think that is not going to happen.

I think with the Russians will do -- will say, drop your preconditions of threatening force against Syria, drop your support for the rebels, and then we can talk about an overall peace settlement. And maybe that will involve secretary general has indicated that Assad may be guilty of crimes against humanity, perhaps part of the deal be giving Assad and his family asylum in Russia with Mr. Snowden.

COOPER: Do you think the United States actually would give up its support of the rebels? I mean, the rebels have been saying all along you haven't been arming us the way we would like. There was a report from CNN and "the Washington Post" two days ago that the CIA has begun to supply weapons to various rebel groups. But do you think that is actually on the negotiating table?

COHEN: I think our support for the rebels has been very minimal to be sure. On one hand, we had almost a Churchillian call to war by Secretary Kerry and then we had a stand out. So, a call to war, a call to action and then go to parade rest. Another call to action going to parade rest.

So, I think the uncertain trumpet we have been blowing has really undermined the rebels in their effort. And we have not really given them very much in the way to wage this war against a President Assad who we said had to go, and we have done very little to make him go.

And so, I think our position has been quite weak and the threat of using military force against Assad with resistance coming, strong resistance from the big core of this country and from Congress makes it difficult for the president. He could launch an attack against certain assets of Assad, but he would do so after having asked Congress for authority and then not getting it. It would be difficult for him politically.

COOPER: We will continue to watch what happens tomorrow.

Secretary Cohen, appreciate your expertise. Thank you. COHEN: Good to be with you.

COOPER: Good to have you on the program as always.

As Secretary Cohen mentioned, Syria may already be moving its weapons around. There is disagreement right now within the intelligence community about where some of that enormous arsenal is located.

Chris Lawrence is following that side of the story tonight from the Pentagon.

How big is this disagreement, Chris, among the intelligence officials and what does it mean for any action the U.S. might have to take against Syria?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It gets pretty wide, Anderson. I mean, on one end of the spectrum, some analyst have looked at the intelligence and say they know where most of the chemical weapons are.

On the other hand, other analysts looked at it and said the United States may not be able to verify the location of up to half of Syria's chemical weapons. So we are talking about a thousand tons. This is a lot of chemical weapons.

What they all agree on is that there was significant movement of these chemical materials in that time frame when the president seem to be ramping up the United States foreign air strike. In fact, "the Wall Street Journal" is reporting that an elite unit of the Syrian army moved some of these chemical stockpiles to up to 50 sites. And it's important no matter how this shakes out, if this all works out with the U.N. and Russia, how are you going to have accountability for the international community to sort of take control if you don't know where all of the stockpiles are, and if it comes down to a U.S. air strike, they have to be assured that they aren't going to hit an actual chemical stockpile and release deadly gas into the air.

COOPER: If there is a wildly disagreement in the intelligence community, how normal is that on something as important as this?

LAWRENCE: Believe it or not, it actually fairly normal. It doesn't come to a surprise to some of the intelligence officials who have been speaking with CNN. They point to Osama bin Laden operation where there was no uniformity on whether bin Laden was actually at that compound.

They say different agencies are looking at different pieces. The NSA is looking at the intercepted communications, the CIA may look at the ground intelligence, military officials -- intelligence officials here may be look at satellite imagery.

So ultimately, the director of National Intelligence has the final say. It's his job, James Clapper's job, to look at this and bring it together and ultimately it's his assessment that will be presented to President Obama. COOPER: Yes. Interesting. Chris Lawrence, appreciate the reporting.

Coming up, back here at home. The woman accused of murdering her husband by pushing him off a cliff just eight days after the wedding. Well for the first time, we hear her first side in court, plus a song from their wedding takes on a new meaning one in that words of the songwriter is kind of creepy.

Later, we could be on the track to see the most measles cases in the United States in 17 years. What is behind this uptick? We will tell you when we continue.


COOPER: The woman accused of murder in the death of her husband, just eight days after the wedding was back in court in Montana today. For the first time, an attorney told Jordan Graham's side of the story, the story of how and why she pushed her new husband, Cody Johnson, off a cliff at Glacier National Park. We will get to that in a moment.

We also now have video of their wedding. The song of the bride recorded for their first dance. For the songwriter it's now a whole new very eerie layer to the story.

Kyung Lah reports.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It began with such promise, young love of Cody Johnson and Jordan Graham. They danced to a song composed specifically for them with the bride's recorded vocals in the background, a song written by Elizabeth Shea.

ELIZABETH SHEA, OURSTORYOURSONG.COM: She was excited to surprise Cody with a song for their first dance.

LAH: Graham seemed like a normal bride says Shay who wrote the lyrics and a music guided by the young bride.

SHEA: I used words like you helped me to climb higher for a better view. You are my safe place to fall. You never let me go and so now when I hear those words, it's a little creepy.

LAH: Creepy because eight days later, Johnson fell to his death pushed, say prosecutors by the very woman who danced with him.

Jordan is there anything you want to say?

Saying nothing to us a defendant leaving court with her parents. Ordered to remain on home confinement before her trail. The court called her here for a last-minute hearing as prosecutors fought to send her back to jail. And the hearing, we learned for the first time one of the defense would be. Graham's lawyer says she and Johnson fought at home where they say Cody pinned her down. They added that he wasn't abusive but controlling her movement. It was Cody says Graham's lawyer who wanted to go to Glaciers National Park that night. At this sheer cliff they say there was a grabbing incident which was all in one motion the grabbing and pushing. 25-year-old Johnson fell face-first to his death.

This was an accident says Graham's lawyer. On the second degree murder charges, this is a gross case of overcharging by prosecutors adding this is just not fair.

You believe this was an accident?

MICHAEL DONAHOE, FEDERAL DEFENDER: You know, I'll just stand on what we discussed in court today. As far as the merits are concern, yes.

LAH (voice-over): Graham's release into home confinement and her apparent defense plans are a kick in the gut to Johnson's friends.

MAXIMO ROHAS, VICTIM'S FRIEND: He didn't deserve whatever end she gave him. He never earned anything that Jordan did to him, and I disagree with all of my heart at what the justice system is saying is fair.

LAH: Prosecutors paint a very different picture of this young bride, a woman who told multiple lies to investigators, to friends, to family. Prosecutors say she created a fake e-mail account and wrote e-mails to herself to fabricate a story about her husband's death. The defense characterized them as post event mistakes. She finally confessed to pushing her husband in the back, face-first off the cliff. Her motive, prosecutors say she regretted getting married. A self-defense or calculated crime, a still unwinding tale that began with a wedding and will end in a court of law. Kyung Lah, CNN, Missoula, Montana.


COOPER: There is a lot more happening tonight. Randi Kaye has the 360 Bulletin -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a suspect is detained in connection with the shooting deaths of four people found in a car in rural Tennessee. Cumberland County prosecutors say they will seek charges against Jacob Allen Bennett. Three of victims were teenagers. The fourth was a 22-year-old mother.

Crowds gather in India as a judge sentenced four men to death for the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi last December whose wounds were so severe she later died. The case made headlines around the world.

United Airlines says it will honor tickets mistakenly sold online for between $5 and $10 on Thursday. United said human error is to blame for the great deals, not a computer glitch. Anderson, an update on the Ikea Monkey, I'm sure you remember him. A Canadian judge has ruled the monkey must stay at an animal sanctuary and can't go back to the woman who illegally bought him and kept him at home that is until December 2012 when the monkey was found running around outside of Toronto Ikea store in a coat and a diaper -- Anderson.

COOPER: That's my favorite photograph. The monkey's name is Darwin and we should use his name.

KAYE: Very well-dressed.

COOPER: Well, the coat for me is what set this story over the edge. Originally, I thought the monkey had escaped naked and picked up the coat somewhere in Ikea and I realized Ikea doesn't sell a monkey sized coats.

KAYE: Exactly. Maybe in the children's section, I don't know.

COOPER: All right, Randi, thanks very much.

Up next, really a kind of stunning development, measles cases in the United States are on the rise, this year on track to be the worst in two decades. Health officials said they know what is behind the spike and it's basically parents not vaccinating kids. I'll talk to Dr. Sanjay Gupta about why.

Also ahead, hundreds of defenseless dogs rescued from a brutal dog fighting ring. We'll see how they are now being loving cared for.


COOPER: Alarming report from the Centers for Disease Control, from January 1st through August 24th of this year, there were 159 cases of measles in the United States. Now that may not seem like a large number but it is. In fact, 2013 is now on track to be the worst year for measles in the last 17 years. This is what measles looks like, a rash spreads across the body.

Back in 2011, nearly 40 percent of kids under the age of 5 who contracted the disease had to be hospitalized and while it's rare measles can be deadly in kids. A dozen years ago, the medical community believed this disease was eradicated due to decades of immunization. Not so and therein lays the rub.

Health officials say the majority of new cases are the result of parents refusing to vaccinate because they wrongly believe vaccinations can trigger autism. In a moment, I'll talk to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, but first Randi Kaye on one community that had a measles outbreak.


RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It all started with a visitor to the Eagle Mountain International Church near Forth Worth, Texas, a visitor who had traveled overseas then at church hugged parishioners and handled babies in the church daycare unknowingly spreading a dangerous measles virus. Terri Pearsons is the pastor.

TERRI PEARSONS, PASTOR, EAGLE MOUNTAIN INTERNATIONAL CHURCH: We have a few families that have been affected by this and so we want to shut this thing down.

KAYE: More than a few, 16 cases of the measles originated at the church including seven adults and nine children. The youngest is just 4-months-old. Health officials say 11 of the victims have never been vaccinated. Not surprising considering the pastor's televangelist father has long spoken out against children getting immunized often suggesting a link to autism. Listen to this recent broadcast posted on the church's web site.

KENNETH COPELAND, TELEVANGELIST: As parents we need to be a whole lot more serious about this and being aware of what is good and what isn't and you don't take the word of the guy that's trying to give the shot about what's good and what isn't. You better go read the can or read the thing. Find out what is going on there.

KAYE: Medical officials have found no link between vaccines and autism.

(on camera): As one expert put it, measles has a way of finding people that aren't vaccinated and it's not just Texas. This past spring 50 children in an orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn got the measles. None of them had been vaccinated, either because they were too young or because their parents refused or delayed the vaccine.

In 2011, there were 21 cases of the measles reported in a Somali community in Minneapolis. Concerns about the vaccine being linked to autism drove vaccination rates down to 57 percent.

(voice-over): Other measles outbreaks have been reported in recent years in San Diego, Indiana, North Carolina and elsewhere among unvaccinated people. Back at Eagle Mountain International Church, the pastor released this statement online. It reads in part, some people think I am against immunizations, but that is not true. She's now urging members to be vaccinated at a free county clinic.

PEARSONS: If you read the Old Testament, you find that it is full of precautionary measures.

KAYE: As long as the precautionary measures are in line with the church's belief of faith healing.

PEARSONS: Go in faith. Do it in faith. Do it in faith. Do it in faith. Now, if you're somebody and you know that you know that you know that you got this covered in your household by faith and it crosses your heart of faith, well then don't go do it.

KAYE: On its web site, the church urges anyone with a medical condition to first seek the wisdom of God, then appropriate medical attention, including vaccinations from a professional they trust. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Again, the medical community says there is no link between vaccines and autism. Here to talk about it tonight and the dangers of not vaccinating your kids, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, this new CDC report, which actually makes mention of that church in Texas that we report on before, it expressed this to be the worst year for measles in more than a decade. How much of that is because of parents refusing to vaccinate their kids?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you can almost put a number on that, Anderson. It's over 80 percent of those people who are contracting measles are because they did not get vaccinations. So measles is probably one of the best examples of sort of cause and effect. If you vaccinate, you see the numbers go down dramatically. If you don't, the numbers go up.

Let me point out something else, Anderson. In the year 2000, we almost got to the point where we said look, we eradicated measles. There was no person to person transmission and over the last several years, you have about 50 to 60 cases a year. So far 159 cases, if this to trajectory continues this year, this will be the worst in two decades, as far as measles cases go.

COOPER: And just for those who under estimate, you know, the -- how strong measles can be and how serious it is, explain it.

GUPTA: Well, it's very contagious. So if there is a child, for example, whose not been vaccinated and they come in contact with someone who has measles, they are virtually 100 percent likely to get the measles. It's very contagious and the vaccine is very effective.

But if they don't have the vaccine and do come in contact, they will get the measles. We also know that out of the thousand kids or so, up to three out of a thousand die from this and also significant pneumonia, significant concerns about encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain. It's a terrible disease, but also, you know, a very preventable one.

COOPER: And 80 percent of this is because or parents not vaccinating their kids. Some of that is based on philosophical or religious grounds, others point to scientific reasons, the fear of autism really primarily among that. Among those who say this is about preventing autism and they are scared vaccines can result in autism, you say what? You say the science is not there?

GUPTA: The science is not there, and look, you know, I say this as a reporter, but also as a doctor and as a dad, and I have three kids, and I think it's really important for me to say I got them vaccinated on schedule. They got their full vaccinations on schedule. The -- I understand the concern and, you know, it's heart breaking to hear some of those stories.

But while we don't know why we've seen the increase in cases in autism, we can say it's not related to vaccines and what we can say for sure is that these vaccines can prevent some pretty terrible diseases. So I would like to know what the cause of autism is and increases in the numbers, but it's not vaccines, so get your kid vaccinated.

COOPER: Sanjay, got advice, thank you.

GUPTA: You got it, thanks.

COOPER: Well, up next, if you like dogs, you have to watch this story, hundreds of dogs rescued from a brutal existence in a dog fighting operation. The ASPCA is now working to heal the physical and emotional wounds. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Kind of a new look for Ms. America contestant, she's blonde and wearing a bikini, but there she is, Ms. Kansas, and there is her tattoo. Will the Miss America pageant ever be the same? "The Ridiculist" is coming up.


COOPER: Tonight, we have a story of hope for hundreds of dogs that were brutalized by people. They came into the world only to be trained to fight each other to the death. These poor defenseless animals were used in a dogfighting operation, their lives miserable. They were scared physically, emotionally and when the ring was busted, the dogs were rescued.

And now being cared for and loved by people treating the physical wounds, but trying to heal the emotional wounds, as well. The ultimate goal is to undo the damage undone to these animals and get them adopted into loving homes. I warn you the cute factor in what you're about to see is very, very high. Gary Tuchman reports.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sign says I'm fearful, please go slow, and this is who it pertains to, a tan dog with brown eyes, who is shaking in the back of her cage. A pitbull mix who has spend her whole life being brutalized. The same with this dog who has scars all over his face and this dog about to give birth yet was also expected to fight to the death, if necessary.

There are 253 dogs here, all used in a criminal dogfighting enterprise. They are now evidence in the second largest dogfighting bust ever and are being cared for lovingly by the ASPCA in a warehouse in a secret location in the Southern United States.

MATT BERSHADKER, ASPCA PRESIDENT AND CEO: For the security of the dogs and for the security of the personnel and for the integrity of the case, we want to keep all of this under wraps.

TUCHMAN: Twelve men were arrested and hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling money seized and a total of 372 pitbulls rescued. Some of the dogs are being cared for in another location. The bodies of dead dogs were also found.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There we go. Good boy.

TUCHMAN: Amid the trauma, these animals are getting their first ever checkups by vets who are dealing with serious physical injuries and mental scars.

BERSHADKER: Their lives have been brutal. Their lives have been filled with misery and pain. The only thing they know from mankind is hatred and the harsh touch, and the brutality of the fighting pit, and living out on that chain. Their lives have been miserable.

TUCHMAN: There are several pregnant dogs here that were fighting weeks ago and there are also puppies.

(on camera): Let me tell you the story about this particular little guy. This little guy right now is 10 weeks old. The only weighs 5.5 pounds. When he was found, he was attached to a log chain. I'll show you what a log chain is. This is the log chain. It weighs about 20 pounds. He was attached to this. He was out in 90-degree weather and had absolutely no water.

(voice-over): This is a picture taken by authorities of the same puppy when the dogfighting operation was busted. The primary goal here is to give each of the dogs a chance to someday be adopted.

DR. SARAH KIRK, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, ASPCA FIELD INVESTIGATIONS AND RESPONSE: We've given medication to get rid of fleas. We can put them on pain medication. We don't have all of our diagnostic results yet. Some dogs in these circumstances have heart worm disease.

TUCHMAN (on camera): But you feel can live a good life?

KIRK: I do. I think he can have a good quality of life with the proper care.

TUCHMAN: You can see this dog has scars all over his face, whoa. This is how we know he's recovering. They don't play fetch the ball in captivity, but now after a couple weeks here, he's ready to play.

(voice-over): Remember that fearful tan dog we showed you, an ASPCA therapist is working with her to slowly try to build her trust, alleviate her fear and convince her she's loved.

BERSHADKER: This may be the second largest dogfighting bust in U.S. history, but it's a drop in the bucket. This is going on all over the United States.

TUCHMAN: These dogs are getting a second chance, but so many others are not.


COOPER: Gary Tuchman joins me now. Pitbulls get such a bad wrap and such a sickening story. The site you mentioned is kept secret. Why is that? TUCHMAN: Police say that they have a legitimate concern that bad guys in this dogfighting industry might try to steal these dogs if they knew where they were being kept, and that's why it's kept secret -- Anderson.

COOPER: Is there any sense of what percentage of these dogs will be adopted?

TUCHMAN: Before I got to this warehouse, I assumed that because these dogs had such a violent life that very few could be adopted, but it shows how much I know. It's early right now, but the officials tell us that they believe that the great majority of these dogs will be adopted by people living happy homes or will become worker dogs or perhaps live in animal sanctuaries or become therapy dogs. So their feeling is there is a good shot most of the dogs we saw in that secret warehouse will live happy good lives after such terrible violent starts.

COOPER: Puppies are so -- pitbull puppies -- you just want to squeeze them in a nice way. Gary, thanks very much.

Coming up, "The Ridiculist" is next. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." Tonight, I got some shocking news to tell you. This Sunday the new Miss America will be crowned. That's right. They are still doing that. That's not the most shocking part. I hope you're sitting down because this year for what is believed to be the first time ever. One of the contestants is going to show us her tats.

That's right. This year's Miss Kansas has tattoos. That is the serenity prayer. The saying about, you know, accepting what you cannot change, changing what you can and know the difference. So basically without speaking she already has knowledge on her side, well played, Miss Kansas.

She's got another tattoo that you couldn't really see in that picture. It's currently on her left shoulder and it's the U.S. Army Dental Corpse insignia. That's right. Ms. Kansas was in the military.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People laugh when I tell them I first started serving as a mechanic, a grease monkey. Who have ever thought that a grease monkey would hold the title of Miss Kansas 2013?


COOPER: I am not going to mess with Miss Kansas. She's an expert with an M-16, an avid hunter and used to race motorcycles and speaks Mandarin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love Chinese people and their culture.


COOPER: Behind all the tats and guns and bilingualism, at heart, Miss Kansas insists she's just a normal girl.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody thinks of Miss America as this girl on a pedestal and I want her to come down from that. She's a normal girl.


COOPER: Just a normal girl, getting ready to take the stage with all the normal girls in bikinis and high heels and the name what really matters inner beauty and marksmanship.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you want a contestant that can hit the bulls eye at Miss America, then vote me into the top 15.


COOPER: Boom. I'm calling it. Miss Kansas wins. There she is Miss America. This thing is over. Just give her the crown and be done with it. She seems great. I got to say, getting back to the tattoos. Miss Kansas may be the most adverse thing that happened to the pageant world since April Ludgate ran for Miss Pawnee Parks and Recreation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello. I'm April Ludgate. I'm 20 years old. I like people, places and things and this is my favorite place in the world. No, I didn't win but at least I didn't make any new friendships.


COOPER: So when you watch the Miss America pageant this weekend, that's right, they show it on TV and yes, it is 2013, beauty pageants are probably here to say because as they say a thing of beauty, much like a tattoo is a joy forever on "The Ridiculist."

That does it for us. Thanks for watching. "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now. Have a great weekend.