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Breaking News

American Hostage Jill Carroll Released; Randy McCloy Getting Out of Hospital Today

Aired March 30, 2006 - 08:00   ET


I'm Miles O'Brien.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Soledad O'Brien reporting this morning from Washington, D.C.

M. O'BRIEN: Some breaking news out of Iraq this morning.

American hostage Jill Carroll has been released. Take a look at that picture. That's a picture we've all been wanting to see. As a matter of fact, her father, Jim Carroll, saw it just a few moments ago on CNN and says he's quite pleased to see it. And so is the rest of the world, quite frankly -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Also ahead, Miles, this morning, as we've been telling you, President Bush in Mexico. He's talking about security. He's talking about immigration on both the north and south borders. We're going to talk about that.

M. O'BRIEN: Back to court for the wife accused of killing her preacher husband.

Will there be an explanation today?

S. O'BRIEN: And Randy McCloy, the sole survivor of the Sago Mine tragedy, is getting out of the hospital. Coming up in this hour, we're going to hear from his doctor.

Plus, we're tracking those dangerous storms across the Midwest. It could include some tornadoes, too. Your severe weather forecast is just ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

M. O'BRIEN: And we begin with the breaking news that we've been telling you about all this morning.

Good news. After nearly three months, American journalist Jill Carroll is released. And we're told she's safe and sound.

These pictures you see here captured by Associated Press Television after her release, an interview we are able to share in portion with u. It is partially translated into Arabic. But as best we can tell from it, she is in good shape, sounds good, looks good, offering up a few details about her captivity and stressing all the while that she was treated well during her three month ordeal. Her father, Jim Carroll, phoned us just a little while ago to say he saw these pictures on CNN and is just immensely relieved. He had heard from Jill immediately after her release via telephone, but I'm sure a picture speaks volumes at this point in time.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is in Baghdad. He's been watching this for us, as well -- Nic, we expect to hear from the U.S. military pretty soon.


And perhaps then we're going to learn a little bit more about how Jill was released.

But what's very interesting here is that this first interview that she has given, within two hours it seems of being released, is being held at the Iraqi Islamic Party headquarters, a moderate Sunni party here. Perhaps an indication of their involvement in her release. We'll probably learn more about that.

But she very importantly saying that she was treated well, that she wasn't threatened. Nobody threatened to hit her. She was able to watch television once during her period of captivity. Also able to read a newspaper once, but not enough to understand what was going on in the outside world. That she was held in a room but she had some space to move around in. That the room had a frosted window so she was able to have sort of some daylight where she was being held. But she really didn't have an idea of what area she was being held in.

So we're beginning to get a detailed picture, very importantly there, that she was -- that Jill says that she was well treated and that nobody threatened to hit her during that almost three months of captivity -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Nic Robertson, who is watching things for us from Baghdad.

Back with us in just a little bit as these details start to drib in and drab out.

The president and much of his senior staff is in Cancun this morning for a summit with the Mexican president, as well as the Canadian prime minister.

CNN's Elaine Quijano is there. The front boiler -- front burner item to this moment has been immigration reform. But we're obviously curious this morning, Elaine, if there's been any reaction about Jill Carroll's release.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the first official reaction, as we've heard, coming not here from Cancun just yet, where the president is, as you noted, but instead from overseas, from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Obviously this is welcome news for the Bush administration. But that first official reaction coming from her, expressing relief. Here's a little bit of what she had to say.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: If I may just take the privilege, also, minister, to note the great delight and great relief of the United States, the people of the United States, and I'm sure the people of the world, at the release today of Jill Carroll, the journalist who has been held in captivity in Iraq. This is something that people have, across the world, worked for and prayed for, and I think we're all very pleased and happy to hear of her release.

Thank you.


QUIJANO: And that was Secretary Rice in Berlin, where she is meeting with world leaders on the issue of Iran.

Still awaiting to find out some details about how President Bush was informed, how he may have been informed about this.

Now, as you noted, though, obviously, the president here in Mexico to talk about the front and center issue of immigration. His visit here to Cancun coming just as, of course, the immigration debate in Washington is boiling over, with Congress taking up that issue.

Now, the president arrived here in Cancun last night. This morning he'll take part in a little sightseeing tour to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. And then he will sit down for a round of meetings with Mexico's president, Vicente Fox, and Canada's prime minister, Steven Harper -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Elaine Quijano in Cancun.

Back with you in just a little while.

Live pictures now from Baghdad.

Major General Rick Lynch beginning his briefing.

He's talking about other matters right now, has not addressed the release of Jill Carroll. We're watching it very closely. The minute he gets into that subject matter, we'll go right to it live, so stay with us for that.

In the meantime, we may soon get some answers of the killing of a Tennessee minister. That's another story that lies ahead. Let's have Soledad pick it up from here -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, you know, of course, this is a story, Miles, where there are many, many questions and many people hoping to hear from her today. She, of course, stands accused in his murder. She apparently has confessed to it. But the details, the why behind the story is what's fascinating everybody, who want to know why she did it. Let's get right to Rusty Dornin, who has got an update for us.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Soledad, and, you know, prosecutors really don't have to present much, they're saying, in order to convince the judge, number one, not to set bail for Mary Winkler, and, number two, to turn it over to a grand jury of her peers. They will be the ones who will decide the final charges against Mary Winkler. And, as you said, the big question is are they going to reveal the motive that she told them when she confessed to shooting her husband?

Now, that's the key here, because they may not have to do it and they may only present a small part of that statement. And, remember, the defense has not even seen the statement that she made to police. They won't see it until after the grand jury files their charges.

So, meantime, her family friend did tell us that Matthew Winkler's parents went, right after Mary Winkler was arrested, and they personally met with her to say that she was forgiven for whatever she had done. And, reportedly, she cried, said she was remorseful, very sorry about what had happened.

But this family, three generations of ministers, they say they have forgiven -- no matter what happens, they have forgiven Mary Winkler for what she has done -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: It'll be interesting to see what happens and what we learn this morning.

Rusty Dornin for us.

Thanks, Rusty.

And in the next hour, we're going to learn much more about what to expect from that hearing today.

We're going to talk to Mary Winkler's attorney. His name is Steve Farese.

There are some images he would rather forget. That's the words of Randy McCloy describing what he remembers from the Sago Mine disaster. He's finally getting out of the hospital today, after nearly three months.

CNN's Chris Huntington live at the hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia -- hey, Chris, good morning.


Well, this is a day that the doctors are not hesitating to call miraculous.

As you'll recall, Randall McCloy brought out of the Sago Mine. He was in a deep, deep coma for more than a month. He is, in fact, heading home, as you said, to a town about 40 miles south of where we are right now in Morgantown, West Virginia. He is still very, very weak and frail. He was a thin man to start with, lost 30 pounds, has a lot to go still in his physical rehabilitation. But his mental recovery is nothing short of astounding.

He does, in fact, remember much of what happened in the mine, but does not yet want to talk about it. In a brief conversation with the Associated Press, though, yesterday, when asked the obvious question about some of what he saw in the mine, he had this to say, at least in part. He said: "I try to leave out the gory details and stuff like that, because I don't like to look at them."

His fellow miners, in that light and in that way. "I just try to picture them saved and in heaven, stuff like that."

I had a chance to sit down with one of Randall McCloy's doctors earlier today and he said that they are almost positive that somehow Randall was in better oxygen than the other miners, at least for some of the 40 hours that he was down there. They're pretty sure that he and one of the other miners spent some time walking around, perhaps looking for a way out.

So there's some evidence that in addition to his obvious personal physical fortitude in withstanding that, that he had some advantage, perhaps, that the other miners did not. We may learn more about that in the weeks and months to come.

But overall a joyous day here in Morgantown, West Virginia -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Lots of good news we're getting today.

Chris Huntington, thank you very much.

And we're prepared, of course, to bring you coverage of the news conference from Randy McCloy's doctor, possibly his wife, too. We're told that she may be attending, as well.

We're expecting that in just about 30 minutes or so.

We're going to bring that to you when we get a chance.

It's time to get a look at the other stories that are making news.

Carol Costello has that.

She's in the newsroom back in New York -- hey, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

Good morning to all of you.

Major security flaws at U.S. ports. A new congressional study suggests that shipping American ports could hold anything from terrorists to nuclear weapons. Lawmakers say there are not enough inspections and very little guidance from higher-ups on how to inspect properly.

The U.S. Senate is working on a new ethics bill. New rules keep lawmakers from taking gifts, but they can still accept free trips from non-lobbyists. The vote came just hours after former lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to almost six years in prison on conspiracy and fraud charges in Florida.

A showdown may be brewing over Iran's nuclear program. The United Nations Security Council is giving Iran 30 days to suspend any enrichment of uranium or face possible sanctions.

Talk show host Charlie Rose in intensive care today after undergoing open heart surgery. The 64-year-old was airlifted to a hospital in France after experiencing shortness of breath in Syria. He was there to interview the Syrian president, Bashar Assad. Rose's doctors expect him to be back at work by the end of April.

And major league baseball ready to take a closer look at steroid allegations against Barry Bonds and other players. Former Senate majority leader George Mitchell will likely lead that investigation. Word of the inquiry comes just after the release of that new book, "Game of Shadows," that alleges steroid abuse by Bonds and other baseball stars.

That's a look at the headlines this morning -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much, Carol Costello.

We have a lot of severe weather activity all across the nation's mid-section.

And Chad Myers is watching it very closely for us -- good morning, Chad.


Already now, a severe thunderstorm watch box from Nebraska down through Kansas. A couple of bigger storms there, and one not that far from Millard and Omaha, Nebraska. Another one coming up toward Beatrice into Nebraska.

The big number that we're watching here all day is the number of lightning strikes per hour. Inside this box here, 629 lightning strikes in an hour. If you were with us around 6:00, that number was 150. About an hour ago, it was 400. Now it's up to 630. And as the day goes on, that number is going to get larger because the zone of severe weather is going to get larger.

In fact, it is going to encompass everywhere from Iowa all the way over to St. Louis and then down into Texas. And the darker red around it and then the brighter red in the middle is the focus where the tornadoes could actually be today.

It will be warm in Dallas, it'll be warm in St. Louis. And then the cool air comes in behind the storm and tries to push that warm air up into the sky and you get those towers, those thunderstorm towers that build throughout the afternoon.

Some of those towers will begin to spin and like an ice skater with their arms out, spinning slowly. The whole storm spins. But the middle part of the storm or the back part of the storm, where the arms come in, that's where the storm goes the fastest and that's when the skater goes fastest, when you have all of the arms and all the legs altogether, all that momentum in all one spot. There it is, from Dallas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, you're under the gun -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: An ugly looking map for us, Chad.

MYERS: Sorry.

S. O'BRIEN: Ugly, ugly.

All right, thanks.

MYERS: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: We'll keep watching it.

Ahead this morning, much more on that news out of Iraq, and what a wonderful story to share this morning. Jill Carroll released after being held hostage for nearly three months. We're going to have the latest on that story for you coming up.

Also ahead, FEMA hammers out a plan to make sure we don't see a repeat of Katrina's tragic aftermath. We're going to talk this morning to the man who is FEMA's acting director and talk about what he wants changed.

And then there's this...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We talk about terrorism all the time, but our first terrorist on the border has always been the drug dealer. Always.


M. O'BRIEN: Brutal violence in a Mexican town threatens to spill over to its U.S. neighbor. A tale of two border cities ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: We are following a great story this morning, quite frankly. There you see her -- free, unharmed, safe and sound. Jill Carroll speaking to a reporter just a few hours after her release from captivity in Iraq now for nearly three months.

The U.S. journalist, 28 years old, working for the "Christian Science Monitor," abducted on January 7th. And at the time she was held captive, her translator was killed. Now, we finally have separated out the English from the Arabic. If you'll recall, when we first aired this interview, there was an Arabic translation, making it difficult to listen.

Let's listen into it now.


JILL CARROLL, JOURNALIST: It was difficult because I didn't -- I didn't know what would happen to me.


CARROLL: You know, I can't really talk about it very much.

QUESTION: You can't talk about it?

CARROLL: I can't say where.


CARROLL: But I did -- I did get some news of what was going on, not -- sometimes some news, but that's all.

QUESTION: How did the -- what were the conditions that you were released to compensate for someone else? (ph)

CARROLL: I don't know. I don't know what happened.

QUESTION: You don't know?

CARROLL: They just came to me and said OK, we're letting you go now. That's all.

QUESTION: You don't -- you -- have you no knowledge that there was a negotiation to make you free?

CARROLL: I don't know. I don't know what was going on. They didn't tell me what was going on. They would come, bring me my food. I would eat. It was fine. I would go to the bathroom. But I was not allowed to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

QUESTION: You felt that you are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from Baghdad or (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CARROLL: I really don't know where I was. The room had a window, but the glass was, you know, you can't see. And it had curtains. And you couldn't hear any sound. So I would sit in the room. If I had to take a shower, I walked two feet, you know, next -- to the next door, I'd take a shower, I would go to the bathroom and come back.

QUESTION: That's all?

CARROLL: That's all. So I don't know what -- what -- where I was or what was going on. QUESTION: Well, had the news -- would the news come to you in your place and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) any media?

CARROLL: I once did watch television. But I didn't -- I didn't really know what was going on in the outside world. I got some news -- here and there I would get some news. One time they brought me a newspaper. So I got some news from a newspaper once, but that was about it. I didn't really know what was going on.

QUESTION: Yes. Well, now, you are a journalist.


QUESTION: So could you reveal to us what will you say at this time?

CARROLL: About what happened?

QUESTION: No, no, no. Yes, about what happened. Yes. But what do you want from the United States and the Iraqis?

CARROLL: Oh, the only thing...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this too early to talk about this, Jill? I mean do you want to (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARROLL: I do. And all I can say right now is that I'm just happy to be free. I was treated very well. It's important people know that, that I was not harmed. They never said they would hit me, never threatened me in any way. And I was -- and I'm just happy to be free. I want to be with my family.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to extend my organization to you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are family.

CARROLL: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the American people.




CARROLL: OK. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the Americans that traveled with us today.

CARROLL: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a historical moment for Iraq (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARROLL: Thank you.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm here -- yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the Koran.


CARROLL: Thank you. This is beautiful.



CARROLL: Thank you.


CARROLL: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put him on the phone with me. I mean I can -- I can...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is the holy Koran, OK?

CARROLL: Oh, that's very nice.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Upon which we treated (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARROLL: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: As Jill Carroll receives some gifts, I'm sure the last thing she wants to do is be delayed on her road toward freedom and ultimately the embrace of her family. But out of politeness, she listens as she receives some gifts.

As she is freed, telling us we pretty much got the gist of the whole thing before, that she was -- she didn't know where she was held. She was in a room with frosted glass and curtains, didn't have any noise of the outside, really. Walked about two feet to the bathroom to use it. Watched TV once. Got a newspaper once. But, in essence, did not know what was going on at all, especially as it has to do with the efforts to have her released.

And then she kind of summed it up by saying it's important for people to know, important, clearly, in her mind, that this word get out that she was treated well. She was never threatened with harm nor physically hurt in any way.

Jill Carroll, 28 years old, a journalist with the "Christian Science Monitor," free after nearly three months of captivity in Iraq.

Now, let's go to somebody who has been there and unfortunately done that.

Micah Green was shooting a documentary in -- excuse me, Micah Garren, my apologies -- was 10 days held hostage in Iraq in August of 2004 and knows what's going through Jill Carroll's mind right now.

Micah, just watching her express her gratitude to be free and at least a short story about what it was like in captivity, that in and of itself, that must take you right back to where you were in August of 2004.


I mean it's, first of all, you're absolutely, you know, overjoyed that you're free. It's an amazing feeling, especially, you know, for somebody who's gone through it for almost three months now, as she has. And one of the challenging things is you're also still very confused when you come out of that situation and into a press conference. You know, you -- the last thing you want to do is actually answer questions. You really just want to get home to your family.

So there's still a moment of you kind of not being able to get your feet on the ground, because, you know, kidnapping is all about losing control. So, you know, the -- I went through that myself. I was brought into a press conference immediately upon release. And it's one of those things that you just don't -- you want to answer questions, but you don't know -- you know, you want to be helpful to people.

So it's still a difficult time, but I'm sure she's just going to be absolutely, you know, ecstatic, and her family, as well, for her great fortune.

M. O'BRIEN: There is little doubt in my mind that that's probably what's going on in her mind right now. Two hours after her release she's being asked a bunch of questions, being given some ceremonial gifts. That's probably the last thing she wants to do right now, really.

GARREN: Yes, you know, you just really want to see your family. That's, that's kind of top of your mind.

M. O'BRIEN: Pretty straightforward, isn't it? And that's totally understandable in this circumstance.

What lies ahead for Jill?

GARREN: Well, you know, it's a long process where you have to, you know, spending time alone and with your family is what really matters. And it takes a long time to kind of regain that control and regain a sense of -- and make sense of what happened to you. And, you know, for her, she looks to be very strong. I mean I think she -- it's amazing, when she describes the conditions, I think, you know, they were obviously, they weren't, as she said, they weren't hurting her.

But still, to be kept in isolation like that for three months is just an incredibly terrifying thing. And it takes a long time to process that.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. She says I was treated well, but that's -- we're talking about a relative term here.

You've -- we've got the short story on her treatment.

How does that jive with how you were treated?

GARREN: It pretty much coincides. I mean I wasn't hurt, as well. But, you know, at the same time, five days into it, they made an execution threat video, threatening to kill me within two days. And so, you know, on the one level, you're being treated decently on a day to day basis and with respect. But on another level, your life is being threatened and you know it and you don't know if you're going to live or die in the next day.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, we shouldn't, you know, downplay here -- maybe you weren't physically struck or Jill wasn't psychically struck. But the mental terror and abuse here is not to be trifled with, is it?

GARREN: Oh, exactly. And particularly for the families. I mean the families, that's where, you know, the terror is really kind of focused is on, back on people at home and the families in particular. And it is -- it is really an agonizing thing to have to go through this for everyone.

M. O'BRIEN: Were you optimistic that we would see this day for Jill?

GARREN: Absolutely. I mean from -- for myself and Marie Hillen (ph), my partner, from the start, you know, that's what you have to be. And, you know, it's one of those things that Jill is just a wonderful person and, you know, she showed so much compassion to Iraq and you have to hope that they'll show that much compassion toward her.

And I think this is a thing that this has -- that she's been released unharmed. And I think it's a positive thing. And I think everybody can celebrate this. And I think it's really (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Iraqis need to be celebrating, because it's just a wonderful gesture of good will.

M. O'BRIEN: Micah Garren, who was held hostage for about 10 days in August of 2004, captured in the midst of filming a documentary, joining us from Albion, Michigan.

Thank you for your insights, Micah.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles, we have Susan Garraty.

She is a CNN producer who has been dealing very closely with the Carroll family.

She's had an opportunity to talk to Jill's mom.

Let's check in with her by phone -- hey, Susan, thanks for talking to us.

SUSAN GARRATY, CNN PRODUCER: You know, what a day, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Gosh, it's wonderful news, isn't it? I mean it's so rare that we get to report such absolutely terrific news.

I know you had a chance to sit down with Jill's mom and talk to her. How -- she must be absolutely ecstatic.

GARRATY: Well, I just got off the phone with Mary Beth Carroll from her home. And the word is just ecstatic.

She is clearly very relieved, but also reassured seeing the video of her daughter today. Even -- I think even after speaking to her -- she spoke to Jill, but, you know, that reassurance of seeing her, Mary Beth said that she thought that she looked very well. She thought that she looked in control and she looked healthy.

And, you know, that's coming from the professional there, the mom. So that's all very reassuring.

S. O'BRIEN: Did she talk at all about any details? Has she been filled in on what happened to Jill and how she actually got her freedom?

GARRATY: She did not. She spoke to Jill earlier today, much earlier today. She said, you know, they had a -- they had a conversation which was a lot more along the lines of I'm here, I'm alive, it's all good. And they have not had a chance to go into a great many of the details.

But Mary Beth really wanted to stress that they are really anxiously awaiting the reunification of her. They don't -- the family doesn't have their plans set exactly about how that's going to take place.

S. O'BRIEN: Do you know, Susan, if they're going to bring Jill out of Baghdad? Or will they bring the family into the green zone in Baghdad? Any idea on that? GARRATY: I don't believe that they would bring the family into Baghdad. I think there are -- there are different protocols that will be followed. I don't know the exact ones. But I would think that would be very unlikely.

You know, as a mother, Mary Beth said she was -- she did have one concern. She said, you know, if it's true that Jill was held in one room with one iced over window for a long period of time, you know, that definitely makes her pause, gives her concern...

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, absolutely, yes...

GARRATY: ... about, you know, just her -- not just her physical, but her mental well being.

S. O'BRIEN: Right. Right.

I mean, and it's been interesting to hear from all the former hostages that we've had an opportunity to talk to about how, you know, they feel they're fine and then a month out they realize that they weren't fine. That now they think they're fine and then two months later they realize well, they weren't fine then. They're actually now better and fine. And it's a process.

Interesting to see her, though, looking, as Mary Beth said, in control, which, of course, is a pretty good sign of at least some of her mental health.

Overall, the family must just be so thankful to all of the people who came out to support them here in the United States, overseas, her friends, the people who signed onto petitions calling for her release, right?

GARRATY: And, Soledad, I mean you met the whole family. You met Katy, the sister, the dad and the mother. And you kind of get where they're -- where they come from with the control. The family has just been -- has showed an astounding amount of control and an astounding approach, a very innovative approach, in freeing Jill, from working on PSAs -- which is a pretty uncharacteristic form of trying to get your child out of a hostage situation -- that were aired in Baghdad.

You can really see, having met the family, like you have, where -- where Jill gets that control from.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, that control and the overall fortitude, obviously, are going to be critical in her recovery now, as she is brought to safety.

Susan Garraty, who has been closely talking to the Carroll family.

Thanks, Susan, for updating us.

Appreciate it.

GARRATY: Thanks, Soledad. S. O'BRIEN: Let's get right to Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: The bottom of the hour now.

Just to recap for you, 28-year-old U.S. journalist Jill Carroll is free. She is safe. She is sound. We've heard a few words from her. She says she was held in, relatively speaking, good hands in the sense that she was not harmed physically. Of course, a terrible ordeal over the past three months and now she anxiously makes her way toward being reunited with her family.

We are watching a couple of things for u.

First of all, in the next minute or so, we expect to hear from the "Christian Science Monitor," the people for whom Jill Carroll was working at the time of her capture on January 7th.

And also this. We've got some live pictures coming in from West Virginia now. We're going to be hearing from -- there's a governor of West Virginia.