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White House Names First Gay Secretary Of Military Branch; Source: Child's Mother, Mom's Boyfriend Arrested; Team Creates Robot To Prevent Brain Injuries; Pope Francis To Land In U.S. Tuesday. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 18, 2015 - 16:30   ET


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, this is a part of that cultural sea change we've seen happening at the Pentagon, and this is just another example of that.

We'll have to see how that all plays out in the coming days, weeks and months, but President Obama putting his full faith in Eric K. Fanning to run as secretary of the Army -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: All right, Jim Acosta at the White House. Thank you so much, Jim.

In our National Lead, her name is Bella. The toddler dubbed Baby Doe by police, she is finally been identified and now her mother and her mother's boyfriend are in police custody. The tip that led investigators to them, that's next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The National Lead now, it was one tip, just one tip that led to a major break in Boston's baby doe case. Police now identified the little girl as Bella Bond. Her mother and mother's boyfriend are now under arrest.

All this as detectives return to Boston harbor where the child was found in June wrapped in a trash bag. More than 50 million people viewed this computer generated image of what she might look like. One tip led police to search a home in the Boston area yesterday. That house about 40 minutes from where the remains were found.

[16:35:11] CNN's Alexandra Field is working to learn more. Alexandra, what are police saying?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, John, police have not said how they believe this child's body got to Deer Island, how long she may have been left in that trash bag or what she could have endured before she was placed there. We simply don't know how she died.

But police also didn't know who this toddler was until just a day ago. They've now identified her and along with that identification they've taken two people into custody who they believe could have the answers about what happened to this toddler.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FIELD (voice-over): With big brown eyes, long brown hair and chubby cheeks, her image captured the country's attention.

COLONEL RICHARD D. MCKEON JR., MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE: The outpouring of concern and compassion for a toddler has been unprecedented.

FIELD: This video posted on Facebook shows a happier time with her mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's that, Bella? What'd momma and Aunt Shannon do?

FIELD: Celebrating her second birthday calling her by a nickname, Monkey.


FIELD: Authorities called her "Baby Doe" after her body was discovered in June in a trash bag along the shoreline of Deer Island just east of Boston. She was wearing polka dot pants with her a zebra blanket.

At last count her image generated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shared online more than 50 million times and after nearly three months, a break in the case thanks to a tip called in yesterday to Boston police.

"Baby Doe" has finally has a name, Bella Bond. Her mother, Rachelle Bond arrested according to a law enforcement source. Her mother's boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, also arrested according to the same source.

Police say he's not Bella's biological father. Since June investigators continued to find new clues, a lab test completed last month turned up pollen native to trees and shrubs in New England indicating Bella was from the area.

And soot further showing that she may have been from an urban area. The presence of that evidence also suggesting she was never in the water but placed on the shore, likely a local girl. Tips came in from 30 states and four countries. Finally, police know who she is and who may have been involved.


FIELD: John, the Department Of Children and Family Services say that they had contact with Baby Bella twice before, once in 2012, once in 2013, both times Child for Support Services for neglect.

We also learned an official with the same agency that two other children had been removed from the care of this mother sometime between 2001 and 2006.

And just next hour we should be learning more from officials who plan to hold a press conference concerning the circumstances of Baby Bella's death and also these two arrests that we are now reporting today -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Alexandra Field, thank you so much. More information as Alexandra said in the next hour.

I want to bring in Michael Murphy. He is a program manager with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Michael, detectives back out in Boston harbor. That's where Baby Doe's remains were discovered. Now they have the body, they have a name. What else do you think they're looking for?

MICHAEL MURPHY, PROGRAM MANAGER, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: Well, I think that they're going to try to make sure that they get every piece of information that they possibly can and gathering all the evidence that they need so they can proceed with their investigation and wrap that up as quickly as possible. But at the same time make sure that they do it in an appropriate timeframe.

BERMAN: I remember talking to the DA when this case first went public and he told me flat out he said he suspects that it was a family member involved because it would only be a family member responsible for something like this that would not report a missing child. In your experience with these types of cases, is this normal?

MURPHY: Well, this is certainly something that occurs. This happens as a result of family members can sometimes be a stranger, we know that oftentimes it's someone in the child's life. I think it's important also for us to remember that these investigators, the folks at the Massachusetts State Police, have been absolutely amazing in their tenacious work and in their never giving up and just like we do always being hopeful and always looking.

BERMAN: Fifty million views of the computer generated image of baby doe. Remember, this body was found and it wasn't like they could put a picture of the body up for people to identify. So they came up with this computer generated image, 50 million people saw it. You can see the likeness right there. It's pretty remarkable. Is this something that you think was crucial in helping break this case?

MURPHY: Well, certainly I think it's important that we have it. I think it's important that people remember that when our forensic artists do this work it is a composite.

[16:40:04] It's created with art and with science and with technology and those three things together have created these images that in many instances are so strikingly correct that they will actually give you chills.

There are 700-plus cases that we're constantly working on as a result of this case there are over 200 welfare checks that were done by law enforcement across the nation and outside of the United States. So these images can be vital to the process.

We want to remember that people can go to Facebook to help ID to look at other images. We don't want to lose track of that and make sure we keep the momentum going forward. BERMAN: You know, if it is the mother and this boyfriend, does the case stop there? Is it possible that other people knew? Is that something that will be investigated, Michael?

MURPHY: I'm confident that law enforcement will leave no stone unturned in reference to this investigation and that anyone that was responsible or had any part in this process no matter who that would be would be held accountable.

BERMAN: All right, Michael Murphy, thank you so much for being with us, just a very, very sad story, but knowing the name perhaps will bring some peace to those who hopefully are out there and still love that little girl.

In our Sports Lead, a shocking report showing nearly every ex-NFL player who donated his brain to science after death tested positive for a brain disease linked to concussions. Now the NFL is responding. That's next.

In our Money Lead, half a million cars recalled not for a safety issue because the carmaker tried to pull one over on the federal government. That's ahead.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Repetitive head trauma chokes the brain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The NFL does not want to talk to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You turned on the lights and gave their biggest Boogy man a name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to war with a corporation that owns a day of the week.


BERMAN: All right, welcome back to THE LEAD. That's a clip from the forthcoming film "Concussion." Will Smith portrays a forensic pathologist who discovers chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.

The Hollywood drama gets even more real in today's Sports Lead. An alarming report just released shows that 87 of 91 former NFL players who donated their brains after death they suffered from CTE or brain deterioration disease.

I want to get right to CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, this report is from Boston University and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Explain exactly what CTE is and what the science is about how athletes might get it.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is a relatively new term, John, for a lot of people. CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy like you said is a brain disease that is progressive. It is most similar to an Alzheimer's like disease.

People actually deposit these proteins in the brain very much like they do in Alzheimer's, some of the same proteins. This typically occurs from people who've taken repeated blows to the head.

I talked to one of the pathologists who conducted this study. I said is there any other thing that would cause CTE? She told me no. It's blows to the head that cause concussions or sub-concussive sort of hits.

When people have had a number of those it can lead to the CTE. We talk about it in the context of football, John, because of this new study. But it can happen in other sports as well and people are talking about it more than ever.

BERMAN: And it's only diagnosed, I understand Sanjay, after the fact like this when brains are donated after the death of some of these players.

The NFL put out a statement in response to this report, saying, quote, "We are dedicated to making football safer, continuing to take steps to protect players including rule changes and advanced sideline technology and expanding medical resources."

But Sanjay, with players constantly getting hit, are there ways that the sport could change to prevent brain damage?

GUPTA: I think so, John, and I ask the researchers who've been doing this study. I talked to the chief health adviser for the NFL recently and they both say it is possible to make it a safer game and still have it be football.

Couple of examples, first of all, one of the worst consequences is if someone has a concussion and then is not taken out of the game and they get a second concussion. That's called second impact syndrome. That can even be deadly in certain situations so preventing that from happening.

You've probably seen the sideline exams now taking place if you've been watching football. They're doing other things in terms of the rules as well trying to decrease the types of hits that are actually taking place.

And also during practices not having these blows over and over to the head so helmetless practices for example. As you point out as well, John, this particular study, these were players during their life were worried that they might have CTE. So it was a little bit of a biased population when you look at those numbers.

BERMAN: Hopefully in their deaths, you know, it will contribute to the science of understanding what's going on here. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much. Sanjay you noticed is out there in Malibu and a beautiful setting is there to compete in CNN Fit Nation Triathlon, which he is predicted to win so good luck, Sanjay. GUPTA: You're next here, John.

BERMAN: Yes, right. Eight NFL players suffer concussions in the first week, in the very first week of the regular season. So just think how many hits a pro athlete takes in a lifetime all the way back to the earliest days playing as children in peewee leagues. Now a robot perhaps can prevent helmet to helmet collision. CNN's Ana Cabrera shows us how.


ANNA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Violence on the gridiron, glamourized in movies like any given Sunday, but in real life, real consequences. Hall of fame running back Tony Dorsett took this heavy blow in 1984.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My explanation of that was it's like a freight train hitting a Volkswagen.

CABRERA: Now a high-tech game changer called the MVP, mobile virtual player. It's the brain child of Dartmouth engineering students and head football coach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just as close as you can get short of tackling a real person.

CABRERA: A robot with speed.

[16:50:08] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've clocked in, you know, 5-second 40-yard dash.

CABRERA: Capable of moving forward, backwards, even spin moves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes some quick cuts too. It's definitely pretty difficult to tackle.

CABRERA: The MVP allows players to rehearse in-game scenarios without tackling each other reducing one of the biggest injury risks, concussions. The risk to college players is huge.

(on camera): The NCAA rules allow them twice as many contact practices as professional counterparts and the stats are concerning. The NFL is reporting more than 200 concussions per year for the past few seasons.

(voice-over): Thousands of former players recently sued the NFL claiming the league knew the dangers of concussions for years but did little to mitigate the risk. Players like Dorsett now suffers serious brain diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been taking my daughters to practice for years and all of a sudden I forgot how to get there.

CABRERA: The class action suit was settled months ago for about a billion dollars. The league has appealed, but concussion prevention has become a focus of the sport.

(on camera): Gives us a better sense in terms of perspective of cutting injuries down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, so if we think about over half of the concussions in football might occur in practice, right, most of those are occurring in things like blocking or tackling type procedures. So if normally those are two people, right, going at each other, but now we cut it in half.

CABRERA (voice-over): The MVP took two years to design. It's the first season Dartmouth is using it at practices.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had players and teams contacting us and wanting to know when they can get their hands on one. At this point, all we're trying to say is we're developing it.

CABRERA (on camera): So teams from across the country are contacting you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Across the world.

CABRERA (voice-over): The sports world searching for an innovative idea to help tackle one of the greatest concerns threatening the future of football. Anna Cabrera, CNN, Hanover, New Hampshire.


BERMAN: All right, thanks, Anna.

In our World Lead, Pope Francis just days away from his U.S. visit, but are Americans ready for what could be some tough talk? That's next.



BERMAN: Welcome back. Our Money Lead now, nearly half a million, that's how many Volkswagens and Audis, the U.S. government wants off the roads. The German automaker is accused of intentionally using software in diesel vehicles to evade federal emissions requirements.

Regulators say the software turns up emission controls only when the car is being tested. No word yet how much the company will be fined.

Turning now to our World Lead, the historic visit Pope Francis scheduled to touch down on U.S. soil Tuesday after a short trip to Cuba. Catholics across the nation are expected to make the pilgrimage.

I want to bring in CNN's Rosa Flores in Rome. Rosa, the pope scheduled to make a number of high profile speeches while he is here. Give us a sense of what we can expect.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, if you look at the pope's itinerary a few things really stands out. As soon as he speaks to Congress then he goes and meets with the homeless. And then in New York he meets with immigrant families.

And then in Philly he meets with inmates so all of these actions very Francis-esque if you will. But what about what he's going to say in these major speeches? Even insiders will tell you with Francis you just never know.


FLORES (voice-over): The pope's visit to the U.S. was supposed to be all about Philadelphia and families. But insert a stop in Cuba, a cameo before U.S. Congress and a speech at the U.N., and the visit could create a trinity of tension.

First, Havana where the Vatican's influence helped eases 60-plus years of cold war animosity between the U.S. and Cuba.

MICHAEL MURPHY, CATHOLIC STUDIES DIRECTOR, LOYOLA UNIVERSITY CHICAGO: There is a checkered and complicated past, but that's the past. And the pope is about living in the present and moving forward.

FLORES: During President Raul Castro's Vatican meeting with Francis earlier this year, the communist leader said he plans to attend every mass celebrated by Francis. With Castro in the pews, will the pope scorn the country's history of human rights violation and lack of religious freedom?

Pope Francis told students in Cuba Thursday through video conference he'd like to see friendship between the U.S. and Castro's communist nation saying --

POPE FRANCIS (through translator): One of the most beautiful things is social friendship. This is what I would like to be able to achieve, social friendship.

FLORES: Whatever the pope says in Cuba will set the stage for a major address before a divided house in American Congress. During his recent visit to South America Francis called capitalism the dung of the devil. But will he utter those words inside the nation's capital and what about those presidential candidates?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to build a wall, folks.

FLORES: That charged anti-immigration rhetoric, polar opposite to the pope.

MURPHY: I'm not sure if he's worried about alienating people. I mean, he'll be encouraging, but he speaks the truth.

FLORES: His speech before the United Nations at a time hundreds of thousands of Christians are fleeing persecution in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Will he put world leaders in the hot seat asking them to do more to help refugees or will he praise the nations who have already accepted thousands? No one really knows what Francis will say during his more than 20 speeches. If he speaks off the cuff, Cuba, Congress and the United Nations better get ready for a coming to Jesus moment.


FLORES: Now, I'll be traveling with Pope Francis on the papal plane, so, John, if you have a question for the pope, tweet me with #askthepope -- John.