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U.S. Forces Endured Highest Casualties In A Single Day

Aired January 21, 2007 - 19:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: It is one of the deadliest days for the U.S. military in Iraq since the war began. It comes the weekend before the president's pivotal State of the Union Address.
Also, his thoughts, his fears, his life; there is so much we don't know about Michael Devlin. Now the kidnapping suspect has some answers: His words.

And look at this, ice, and snow and cars out of control, but in Oklahoma, more dire conditions. No power, no heat for tens of thousands.

It is 7 o'clock here in Atlanta, 4:00 p.m. on the West Coast. I'm Rick Sanchez. You're in the NEWSROOM. Let's get you started now with a quick look at the headlines.

Bad weekend for Americans in Iraq. Saturday's 25 fatalities marked the third deadliest day for the U.S. military. It saw the crash of a Blackhawk helicopter that killed all 12 on board.

Bill Richardson is in. The New Mexico governor is setting up a, quote, "presidential exploratory committee" in the race for 2008, for the presidency. He made the announcement today on his web site.

Indiana police are searching for Jerry White; he's accused of kidnapping his four children and their mother. Police also think White shot a man who is now in critical condition.

The New Orleans Saints' Cinderella season comes to an end. The Chicago Bears just crushed the Saints in the NFC Championship game, 39 to 14. The Bears move on next to the Super Bowl.

First this hour, though, one of the deadliest days yet for American troops in a lengthy war with no immediate end in sight. It comes as President Bush is raising the stakes with another big speech, his State of the Union on Tuesday. Our first report from CNN's Arwa Damon; she's in Baghdad.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM (on camera): Over two dozen U.S. servicemen died in Iraq on Saturday. The deadliest incident, a helicopter crash happening northeast of Baghdad. All 12 troops on board died in that incident. Eight of them were passengers, four of them crew members. A senior military official telling CNN that initial indications are that the helicopter crashed due to enemy gunfire. The investigation is still however still ongoing.

The area where the crash took place, just south of the provincial capital of Baquba; it is known to be a Sunni insurgent stronghold.

And in the southern city of Karbala, five U.S. soldiers died during a firefight at the Provincial Joint Coordination Center. They were meeting with Iraqi security forces and Iraqi officials to discuss security for the upcoming religious holiday when the compound came under attack with indirect fire, grenades, and small arms fire.

And in the volatile Al Anbar Province, west of the capital Baghdad, four U.S. soldiers and one Marine died, according to the U.S. military, from wounds sustained due to enemy gunfire.

In the capital of Baghdad some developments on the political front; the political bloc loyal to radical Shia Cleric Muqtada al Sadr announcing it will be ending its nearly two-month long boycott of the government. The Iraqi government trying to deal with Muqtada al Sadr politically, also trying to deal with the issue of his Mehdi militia, blamed for much of the sectarian violence here.

Meanwhile, troops to the 82nd Airborne have begun to arrive. Their main mission will be to hold areas of the capitol that have already been cleared. An effort to bring down sectarian violence, which saw, in 24 hours, 29 unidentified bodies throughout the capital. Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.


SANCHEZ: This weekend's deadly developments in Iraq could fuel the fight over U.S. troop levels. Still, both President Bush and Congress are gearing up for a battle. CNN's Kathleen Koch has details.


KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM (voice over): It's been one of the bloodiest weekend's of the war. The surge in U.S. military deaths fueling concerns this Congress that Iraq is not a war U.S. troops can win.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, (D-MA): Their highest loss in the whole struggle with Iraq just reaffirms, confirms that Americans are fighting and dying in a civil war.

KOCH: Wednesday the Senate will begin to consider one of six non-binding resolutions opposing the president's troop increase.

JOESEPH BIDEN, (D-DE): The quickest thing we can do is make it clear to the president that he doesn't have any support.

SEN. CARL LEVIN, (D-MI): The worst thing we can do is vote on something which is critical of the current policy and lose it. Because if we lose that vote, the president will use the defeat of a resolution as support for his policy.

KOCH: One Republican co-author refutes claims such a resolution would embolden the enemy and discourage troops in the field.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, (R-NE): I think it shows the support of the Congress, of our troops. And the concern the Congress has about assuring that those that we are asking to fight and die, have a policy worthy of their sacrifices. My goodness, we're a democracy.

KOCH: More headaches for President Bush could come in confirmation hearings for the military brass he's tapped to carry out his new plan. A top GOP senator voiced doubts about putting the outgoing U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey, in charge of the Army.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): I'm concerned about failed leadership, the message that sends to the rest of the military. I have hard questions to ask him.

KOCH (on camera): It's expected the president's new commanders will be approved. Still, the confirmation hearings that begin Tuesday will give opponents a stage from which to attack the president's Iraq policy, past and present. Kathleen Koch, CNN, the White House.


SANCHEZ: And as we mentioned earlier, there's a new face in the presidential race. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson announces that he is taking the very first step toward the possibility of the presidency. The former Energy secretary and U.N. ambassador says he's forming an exploratory committee, hoping to become the nation's first Hispanic president. Richardson made the announcement today on his web site.


GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D-NM) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know I'm not the favorite in this race. As an underdog and governor of a small Western state, I will not have the money that other candidates will have.

However, I believe these serious times demand serious people who have real world experience in solving the challenges we face. I humbly believe I'm the best equipped candidate to meet these challenges.


SANCHEZ: Perhaps one of his first challenges is going to be getting the spotlight off of Hillary Rodham Clinton. The New York senator, today, made her first public appearance, not on the web site, following her announcement about a presidential bid. CNN's Mary Snow is joining us live now from New York to talk about the hoopla.

Is that a proper word to use there?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM: I think in this case it could be, Rick.

The topic here in New York today was health care, but all the focus was on 2008.


SNOW (voice over): You could say it was classic Hillary Clinton. One day after announcing online that she's in the 2008 presidential race, Senator Clinton proceeded in the business-as-usual mode; it was anything but.

Reporters from all over packed a room at a health care center, that happens to be named Ryan Chelsea Clinton, no relation to her daughter, just coincidence. Senator Clinton talked policy as the cameras caught her every move.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every child should have access to quality, affordable health care.

SNOW: But with the talk of policy came a bit of the softer side. Something seen in her online announcement as she sat in her living room to announce she'll run for president.

A young girl at the press conference held her hand tightly as photographers flashed away and the senator posed with children. And then the woman known for keeping things so close to the vest, faced questions that she has shied away from for months. Including how she came about her decision.

CLINTON: I thought very hard about it, talked to family and friends and supporters after the election. And it was a thorough review, for me, about the problems that we confront in the country, the particular strengths and talents that I would bring both to the race, and to the White House.

SNOW: What role would President Clinton and daughter, Chelsea, play in the campaign?

CLINTON: They're my greatest support system, my greatest advisers, and they'll continue to be that.

SNOW: And the closest she came to talking about her competitors?

CLINTON: It will be a great contest with a lot of talented people and I'm very confident. I'm in. I'm in to win, and that's what I intend to do. Thank you all very much.


SNOW: And one issue Senator Clinton intends to push, she says she plans to campaign for health care for children and universal health care. It's an echo of the health care reform she tried, but failed, to pass as first lady, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much, Mary. Appreciate the report. So how many are in -- to win, that is? CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider is joining me now live -- at the bottom of the hour, with a look at the '08 presidential hopefuls. That's right. Just around the corner, right?

Also tomorrow, CNN's "American Morning" is counting down the New Hampshire primary. That's one year away. Be sure to check it out tomorrow morning beginning at 6:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Take a look at this dangerous driving, cars skidding all over icy roads in West Virginia. Much of the nation still in a deep freeze. The story, next from the NEWSROOM.

Reggie, what you got?

REGGIE AQUI, CNN CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM: Here in Oklahoma, though, the ice is mostly gone. Now something else is sinking in, the reality that a lot of people are left broke. I'm Reggie Aqui, their stories coming up.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST, CNN NEWSROOM: I'm Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras in the CNN Severe Weather Center.

While, things are looking better in Oklahoma and Texas, not looking so great in other parts of the country. The Southwest and the Mid-Atlantic states getting hit hard tonight, the latest on that, and tomorrow's forecast is coming up.


SANCHEZ: Back to that wintry weather that we've been telling you about. It's been spreading all over the country. Yep, look at the pictures.

In West Virginia warnings of an approaching ice storm. More than a quarter of an inch of ice in expected in other place. Other parts of the state are under a freezing rain advisory as well. Several inches of snow yesterday in Texas. There's a chance for bad weather today in the Texas panhandle. Another strong cold front is pushing through that state.

And there's a half foot of snow already in Kansas. It's causing hazardous travel conditions, numerous accidents all over the state, being blamed for six traffic deaths so far.

Oklahoma is having it's share of weather woes. We've been telling you this, right, for the last couple of weekends now. Thousands still without power, as now rain and snow continuing to fall across the state. Obviously, it depends on which part of the state you are. Reggie Aqui has been covering the storm for us from there. One of the hardest hit areas, apparently is, McAlester.

Give us a show and tell, if you would, Reg.

AQUI: Well, it's more rain here that we got than snow. That was such good news yesterday, Rick. And now these people behind me, you can see, they are just getting the last couple of thousand people here in McAlester, who don't have power, back on. So that's very good news. In fact, statewide only about 30,000 people without power and that is way down from what it was a couple of days ago.

In fact, we sort of thought the story was over. We were ready to pack our bags, until we went to breakfast.


AQUI (voice over): When the lights finally came back on today in southeast Oklahoma --

WENDY SINGLETON, MCALESTER RESIDENT: Ya'll need any more creamer?

AQUI: Wendy Singleton couldn't get back to work fast enough. For 10 days this waitress, waited.

SINGLETON: No water, no power, no work.

AQUI: Like most of McAlester, the Denny's restaurant where she works didn't have dependable power, because of last week's huge ice storm. Today the ice is gone. And in many cases, so is the money.

SINGLETON: It means we're really broke and the car payment and everything is way behind.

AQUI: She laughs, but there's nothing funny about what this mother of three now faces at home. Her savings? Depleted.

SINGLETON: Right now what I have made today, which is about $30.

AQUI (on camera): That's it?

SINGLETON: That's it.

AQUI (voice over): As Wendy Singleton works for her kids, David Robinson works for an extended family. The business owner bought 15 generators for people still without power. Today he delivers gasoline to keep those houses warm.

DAVID ROBINSON, MCALESTER BUSINESS OWNER: It is a time of need, I'll say that, because we have really been devastated. I think you can drive around this entire town and see there's not a tree top left.

SINGLETON: Nora, do you want me to take this out?

AQUI: Back at the restaurant, Wendy Singleton welcomes the breakfast crowd.

SINGLETON: I'm happy today because I'm at work, but you know, still a little sad because -- you know, there are things that we can't buy. It's going to take a while to make enough money to catch it back up. AQUI: Now that the cold snap is over, she's working to unfreeze her assets.


AQUI: And there you see the crew from Texarkana. Give credit to them. They've been putting in 14-hour days to get this power back on. For the most part, it is back on. Still some lingering customers who were waiting, who are having to rely on generators or have to go to shelters.

Rick, your heart has to go out to these folks like Wendy, that we met this morning, because they're really just hardworking people who have been out of work and they're just looking forward to getting back on their feet.

SANCHEZ: It's gotta be tough to go through a stretch like that where you're really not able to do anything for yourselves. I imagine it's extremely difficult for the elderly in that area. Has somebody been taking care of them?

AQUI: There have been. The Emergency Management folks and the police departments have been very aware of the elderly, where they are. Earlier, last week, they were going door to door, making sure that they were OK. Trying to get them out of their houses. So, there's been a lot of neighborly help around here. You know, that's sort of the Oklahoma spirit.

SANCHEZ: Reggie Aqui, man you've been doing a great job on that story. We thank you for brining us up to date and fir helping out with the information there for the people of Oklahoma.

Now over to Jacqui Jeras. She's been trying to fill us in on what's going on.


SANCHEZ: What a ride it was for the Saints and the citizens of New Orleans this season. Say what you want, for most people, this is the best team in the NFL. We're headed live to the Crescent City, where the cheering come -- well, we'll tell you what we come back.

Also, new information about the man accused in the kidnapping of two Missouri boys; he gets a little chatty with the media this weekend. But you'll be surprised who he's not talking to tonight.

Also police say this man was living the life of a model citizen, coaching Little League, active in his church activities. Well, today he's behind bars accused of being a serial rapist for two decades.


SANCHEZ: These are some of the stories people are clicking on right now.

Remember Ron Carey? He was that pint-sized actor and featured in several Mel Brooks' movies and played an ambitious police officer on TV comedy "Barney Miller". Carey died of a stroke Tuesday at the age of 71.

Brazilian supermodel Giselle Bunchen (ph) says don't blame the fashion industry for anorexia. The 26-year-old puts the blame for body issues on parents. Four young Brazilian women died of an eating disorder just last month.

And a Hummer CNN used to cover the war in Iraq is bringing in big bucks for a good cause. As we've been telling you Warrior One drew $1.25 million at auction yesterday, with the proceeds going to charity. The founder of a real estate company made the bid, the real estate company is ReMax by the way. There is more on all of these stories at

Now, the story of the luckless football team that suddenly hit its stride and gave its city a reason to smile again, after what they have been through.

For the first time ever the New Orleans Saints clawed their way into an NFC title game, just one win away from a Super Bowl. But late this afternoon the Saints hopes melted in a snowy Chicago.

And don't think for a minute the snow didn't have a lot to do with it. Had they been playing in the Superdome it probably would have been a very different story.

To tell us how New Orleans is taking this news --

Well, Susan, who better than you to talk about this given the way you're dressed today.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM: That's right, in my black and gold, Rick.

You know, New Orleans fans are just happy that the Saints did make it this far. As you mentioned, their first-ever shot at an NFC divisional title and their first real chance of making it to the Superdome. After all this city has been through, who could ask for anything more than that?

And for the fans, it was a good game, for a little while for Saints fans. In the third quarter, it was 16-14, just a two-point difference. Then it started to snow pretty heavily and Chicago ran away with it. The final score was 39-14.

But you have to remember, Rick, that a year ago the Saints did not play a single home game. The Superdome was a wreck after being used as a shelter during Hurricane Katrina. And there was serious talk of moving the team to San Antonio.

So, to go from that last year, to this, this year, such a great season, New Orleans fans really don't have anything but high hopes for next year.

I have to tell you, Rick, there was a friendly wager on this game between New Orleans' Mayor Nagin and Chicago's Mayor Daley. And so tomorrow a big box of chicory coffee and Cajun rice and Bengyia (ph) mix and other Southern delicacies will be heading up north to Chicago to pay off that debt. It was a good year, Rick.

SANCHEZ: You and I were talking about this when I was down in your bureau not long ago. It was remarkable to see people who really have so little and are fighting so hard to put everything back together again. When it came to their Saints, even homes that were barely rebuilt, still had Saints memorabilia on their doors, bumper stickers on their cars. This city did really embrace this team like perhaps no has ever embraced any team, I think.

ROESGEN: Well, you know, it's about so much more than football. This is about civic pride. Some people have criticized the people in New Orleans, and said, how can you be celebrating a football team when so much of your city is still devastated?

But you have to have hope. You have to have something to cheer for. This was our little way of saying, hey, America, no, things aren't right but there are things to cheer about, and we will be back better than ever next year.

SANCHEZ: All right, look out next year for Hoot-At (ph) Nation. Thanks so much, we certainly appreciate that, Susan. Good report.

ROESGEN: You bet.

SANCHEZ: A little bit later in the NEWSROOM, a fascinating look at life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. CNN's Brooke Anderson is going to walk us through the making of a film, debuting in Sundance, 7:30 Eastern, right here in the NEWSROOM.

New information tonight on an Amber Alert for four missing children. This is one we first told you about yesterday. Boy, this story really has grown, though. A live report from Chicago next. And have a pencil handy, you might be able to help in this case.

Also, the suspect in the kidnapping of two Missouri boys is talking. Insight into the mind of Michael Devlin.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the monster known as the Bike Path Rapist has been taken into custody.


SANCHEZ: The monster, behind bars, police say. This is a man, police say, lived a double life for 25 years. The Bike Path Rapist case: Who is this guy? We'll tell you next.


SANCHEZ: Now in the news. Yesterday proved to be the third deadliest day for the U.S. military in Iraq. Twenty five service members were killed. Five of those deaths reported in Iraq's Anbar Province. And in Karbala, five more U.S. soldiers died trying to repel a militia grenade attack on a security coordination center.

For the second consecutive day a White House hopeful takes to the Internet to announce their candidacy. New Mexico governor and former energy secretary Bill Richardson says he's joining the presidential race. If elected he will be the very first ever U.S. president of Hispanic decent.

Call it the deep freeze. Deep in the heart of Texas. Here are shots of Amarillo where a half foot more snow has fallen overnight. Parts of neighboring New Mexico could get as much as a foot of snow tonight as well.

Amber alert in Indiana. We told you about this yesterday. Police say they have found two cars used in connection with this abduction. Still no sign, though, of Kimberly Walker and her four children. And the man suspected of kidnapping them, her ex boyfriend, 30-year-old Jerry White. Shots are involved in this story, at least in the case of another man before this.

CNN's Keith Oppenheim is joining us now from the phone. He is in Chicago, he has been following some of the details in the story. I don't remember when, Keith, I have heard police just come out and say as soon as something like this happens, and they use these words, these children are in extreme danger.

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on phone): Absolutely right, Rick. They are saying that Jerry White is armed and dangerous and as far as I can say from my conversations with them so far, they haven't been getting a lot of meaningful leads yet.

Jerry White, they tell me, is a 30-year-old man who went to his ex-girlfriend's home, Kimberly Walker, and he abducted her and the four children from the home as of Saturday morning. Police also say that Jerry White is the father of the children but they were never married.

Investigators say that over the weekend Jerry White came to her home in Elkhart and shot the boyfriend of Walker's sister twice. The shooting victim is in critical condition. In the meantime, investigators say that White forced Kimberly Walker and the four children to go with him and that he may have gone to the Chicago area where he has relatives.

But Rick, they are not sure about that. Because the problem is there are two cars police thought Jerry White might have been using. Both of those cars were recovered in Elkhart, Indiana. So the bottom line is investigators aren't sure what vehicle he might have been using in this kidnapping.

SANCHEZ: And the bottom line is this is a guy who has already shot somebody who is in critical condition and now he may be driving around in, who knows, a third vehicle perhaps with four innocent children and their mother, right?

OPPENHEIM: Exactly. Or there's a possibility that someone gave them a ride. And Amber alerts have been very effective in part because people have been able to look at the signs on the road and see that there is a certain vehicle that's gone missing and they can identify the car, the license plate. Well, so far in this case that doesn't apply.

So when you look at the pictures of these children and at the pictures of Jerry White, that's what police in Elkhart, Indiana are asking our viewers to really examine. Those are the best clues to help find these kids.

SANCHEZ: Anyone who is capable of shooting someone like he has apparently done, according to police, or allegedly, we should say, boy, you wonder about what their state of mind would be when they're dealing with children like this. It's just a terrible situation. We're going to continue to follow it as well. And we thank you for bringing us up to date. Let us know if anything changes, obviously.


SANCHEZ: Michael Devlin is speaking out for the first time since he was accused of abducting two Missouri boys. Devlin talked to the "New York Post" about his parents, his childhood and being relatively happy. Here are some of the highlights of what he had to say.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): The accused kidnapper talked to the "New York Post" in two 15-minute interviews given from the Franklin County Jail. Michael Devlin admitted to the hasn't talked to his parents yet, saying, quote, "It's much easier talking to a stranger about these things than your own parents."

Devlin, who comes from a large family, told the paper the only visitors he's had in jail were his attorneys.

He also told the reporter that he became lonely and withdrawn in 2002 when he was diagnosed with diabetes.

When talking about the past four years, the amount of time that Shawn Hornbeck was missing, Devlin told the "Post", and we quote, I guess I was relatively happy.

The newspaper reports when asked if he was attracted to women, Devlin answered, quote, "I can't talk about that because it has to do with the case."

Last week Sean Hornbeck's parents told Oprah they thought their son was sexual abused during his captivity. Devlin has pleaded not guilty to one charge of felony kidnapping in regards to Ben Ownby and he is expected to be arraigned on kidnapping charges in the case of Shawn Hornbeck as well.


SANCHEZ (on camera): By the way, Devlin is separated from other inmates in jail because his lawyers and guards believe that he may be attacked. Of the stories making news across America on this day, imagine going to the refrigerator and seeing this. It's a duck looking right at you. Alive. That's what happened to a woman in Tallahassee, Florida. Here is really what happened. Her husband shot the duck and put it in the refrigerator. She found it two days later. After a visit to the vet, the little duck is resting comfortably in an animal sanctuary.

In Minneapolis, the seemingly impossible. A man falls from a window on the 17th floor of a high rise hotel. Seventeen window, and survives. Police say the man suffered some internal injuries and some broken bones. But considering the fall, he is one extremely lucky guy.

Three (ph) is a shock and disbelief in Buffalo, New York, where police have arrested a man they say is a sexual predator responsible for a string of rapes and murders that go back 25 years. But the man's friends and co-workers say he never could have committed such heinous crimes because they know him.

CNN's Fredricka Whitfield has the story.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The so-called Buffalo bike path rapist has eluded police in Buffalo, New York for more than 25 years. But has his luck run out? Erie County officials are confident it has.

SHERIFF TIMOTHY HOWARD, ERIE COUNTY, NY: The monster that has been known as the bike path rapist has been taken into custody.

WHITFIELD: Police announced this week the man responsible for multiple murders and rapes for over two decades is alleged to be this man, 49-year-old husband and father of two, Altimeo (ph) Sanchez. A grand jury has voted to indict him Sanchez for the 1990 murder of Linda Yellim (ph) and the 1992 murder of Mayjay Mazer (ph). Sanchez entered a plea of not guilty to those charges at his first court appearance.

FRANK CLARK, ERIE COUNTY DISTRICT D.A.: We're alleging that during the course of that 25 years, while he wasn't being the model husband, father, employee, he was stalking and raping and killing women.

WHITFIELD: The arrest of Sanchez comes as a complete shock to his family, friends, and especially co-workers who have worked with him for close to 20 years.

DAVE HEFFERSON, CO-WORKER: If I was going to say a person I would like to be like, personality and everything, I would say him.

WHITFIELD: According to local residents, Sanchez has been the model citizen, residing here in this suburban Buffalo neighborhood, he's hosted backyard parties, was coach to his son's basketball team, and was an active fund-raiser at his local church.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I cannot believe that it was Al because he's the best neighbor you can ask for.

WHITFIELD: Andrew Lotempio, attorney for Sanchez met several times with his client and agrees.

ANDREW LOTEMPIO, ATTORNEY FOR ALTEMIO SANCHEZ: This guy seems to be everybody's uncle. And I don't even see any flash of conning or phoniness anymore.

WHITFIELD: It was a tip from a 1981 rape case that led police to focus their efforts on Sanchez. The prosecution plans to rely heavily on DNA secretly obtained from utensils he used as a local restaurant where Sanchez and his wife had dined. Authorities claim that the DNA collected matches that of the DNA evidence at both the murder scenes and several of the rape victims.

SHERIFF TIMOTHY HOWARD, ERIE COUNTY, NY: The probability of there being another individual that would match that DNA is actually in the quadrillions.

WHITFIELD: Rebecca Klauk is a manager at Sole Restaurant and was there the night detectives came in seeking Sanchez's DNA.

REBECCA KLAUK, MANAGER, SOLE RESTAURANT: He showed me his badge and said he was here on a criminal investigation and asked us please not to clear any of the glasses or utensils from the table.

WHITFIELD: Lotempio says he plans to challenge the validity of the DNA evidence.

LOTEMPIO: These things happened 16 to 25 years ago. That means evidence has been sitting on a shelf somewhere unprotected or maybe in a plastic bag but moved two or three times and touched 20 times.

WHITFIELD: He plans to seek a change of venue, noting how the media and prosecution have, in his words, already convicted his client.

LOTEMPIO: We have got the district attorney, the law enforcement officials going on the television and saying we have got 100 percent DNA match.

WHITFIELD: Sanchez is being held without bail. And if convicted of both murders, could serve up to 50 years behind bars. Fredricka Whitfield, CNN.


SANCHEZ: Fascinating story. By the way, are you keeping tally? There is another presidential hopeful who has tossed his hat into the arena.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) NM: Today I'm announcing the formation of a presidential campaign exploratory committee.

SANCHEZ: There he is. Bill Richardson. Who is in? Who is thinking about being in? CNN political analyst Bill Schneider is next. He is joining us in the NEWSROOM.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) AZ: It was a failed policy. It was pursued too long. We now have a new strategy headed by one of the finest military people we have. And I believe we can succeed.


SANCHEZ: Also, in case you missed it, some fireworks on the talk shows this morning. We have it for you from the NEWSROOM.


SANCHEZ: In case you missed it, here are some of the highlights from Sunday morning talk shows. We've got them for you. It's a mix of presidential politics and debate over the Iraq War.

First, Iraq. The U.S. military announced today about 3,200 U.S. soldiers are being deployed to Baghdad in the coming weeks. The beginning of President Bush's plan to boost troop levels there. On CNN's LATE EDITION, this, reaction from Iraq's ambassador to the U.S.


SAMIR SUMAIDAIE, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: The Iraqi government and Prime Minister Maliki specifically is absolutely determined to establish order in Baghdad and beyond Baghdad. And now we have a chance with the support of more significant support from the American side.

But the Iraqis and it's very important to underline, the Iraqis want to take the lead, want to move forward, they just need more support.


SANCHEZ: Three prominent U.S. senators, all potential candidates, take sides on the troop increase.


MCCAIN: It was a failed policy. It was pursued too long. We now have a new strategy headed by one of the finest military people we have. And I believe we can succeed.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, (R) FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: It is morally wrong to continue to put American troops in the middle of a clearly defined sectarian civil war. Iraqis killing Iraqis. Shias killing Sunnis, Shias killing Shias. And think that somehow we're going do stop that, or somehow we're going to have some sense of resolution because of that, I think that's morally wrong.

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) SEN: I'm not for a capping for a simple reason. It maintains the status quo. I don't want to cap. I want to reduce. Capping goes out there and says the status quo is just fine. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Also today, by the way, Senator Sam Brownback who just announced a presidential run as we told you here yesterday, talked about his plans. And we heard from the very latest candidate to enter the fray, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.


RICHARDSON: I wouldn't run as a Hispanic candidate. I would run as an American proud to be Hispanic, proud of my heritage. It's a growing, dynamic community in this country. But I wouldn't just be focusing on Hispanic issues or trying to get the Hispanic vote.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, (R) KS: I put forward a series of ideas on how we can grow the economy, things we can create more opportunities, how we rebuild families, renew the culture. The competition of ideas is how I'll compete and that's how I'll win.


SANCHEZ: So it's a bit of a traffic jam in the race for the presidency right now. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson the latest to jump in. So far four Democrats have confirmed their candidacies. Three others forming exploratory committees. On the Republican side, just one declared candidate. Eight say they're forming exploratory committees. Hard to believe that inauguration day is two years away.

This race is heating up in a bit of a hurry. Why so hot, why so fast? To break it all down for us, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. Always a pleasure to talk to Bill Schneider. And he is here with us now.

By the way, I guess I have to start with this. Because I bet you there is a lot of viewers are wondering, what in the world is an exploratory committee anyway?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, candidates form exploratory committees to explore. They are putting their toe in the water and they are looking out and seeing how much support there is. Usually they say "I've found enough support, I think I'm going to go ahead and run."

What they do is they raise money. And while they're exploring, they don't have to report where the money comes from or how they spend it. But if they do end up running for president, they have to go back and report where all the money came from.

SANCHEZ: It's interesting. A lot of people in this race already with some of the ones we told you about yesterday, Hillary and of course Senator Brownback, and today Richardson. So how do you distinguish yourself in a big field once it starts getting as big as it is already?

SCHNEIDER: There's a clamor for media attention. We're going to have the first debates on both the Republican and Democratic side in New Hampshire early April. And that's going to be a very crowded stage. By my count, if you include four or five candidates in each party who are thinking about it still, you could have 12 candidates on the stage for each party. They are each going to try to grab some public attention, create doubts about the presumed front runners. There are about three frontrunners in each party and hope lightning will strike.

Because, look, this is the most wide open presidential race in over 50 years. The incumbent president can't run, the incumbent vice president isn't running. So a lot of politicians are saying, well, if this is the widest open it's ever going to be I might as well give it a try now.

SANCHEZ: And let's share this with our viewer, if we can. Let's put up, if we can, the picture of Hillary Clinton announcing yesterday, beautiful controlled environment, lovely couch. Very well- coifed. Now let's show Hillary Rodham Clinton today at a speech she made where the reporters had the lights and cameras in her face. They are shouting questions at her. It doesn't quite look as controlled or as comfortable. What's your take on this, Bill, and what does it tell us?

SCHNEIDER: Well, she wanted her announcement to be attention- grabbing in an unusual way so she used the Web site to communicate with her own supporters. That is, of course, a very controlled environment.

You try to control as much as possible in a presidential campaign which is debates are useful. Because they're unscripted, they're uncontrolled and the candidates are all equal on that stage. She is, of course, the Democratic front runner by a wide margin according to the latest polls, but you put them all on a stage together and she and Richardson they all look the same.

SANCHEZ: And a lot of it has to do with lighting and how they're able to deal with it and how well they're able to keep their composure when they're around crowds. A lot of these essentials are really things have more to do with what politicians have been dealing with for ages, right, what kind of impression you make on people.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. And that's one reason why in this country we have such endless political campaigns. We are going to be seeing these people for the next year as candidates for the nomination, maybe longer. And of course there will be another year of the general election campaign. We are going to learn a lot about them. We will be able to weed through who are the serious contenders who aren't so serious who have some interesting ideas and we'll see them operate under pressure. That's important. Because once they take office, it's very hard to get rid of a president.

SANCHEZ: That's good stuff. Bill Schneider, we thank you, as usual, for talking. My producers are saying we're done. But I wish we could talk for a lot longer. Thanks again. We'll see you again soon.

SCHNEIDER: OK. SANCHEZ: AMERICAN MORNING is counting down to New Hampshire as you might expect, the first in-nation primary is a year from tomorrow. Join Miles O'Brien and Soledad O'Brien as they assess the crowded field of presidential hopefuls. That's beginning at 6:00 a.m., by the way.

Now let's talk a little bit about the Sundance Film Festival. It gets a taste of New Orleans. Unfortunately, a bit of a bitter taste.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best way to help these people is to get in, measure the damage, get out, do as many claims as possible.


SANCHEZ: Katrina insurance agents the topic of a new movie. A preview next in the NEWSROOM.

Then in about 10 minutes, this weekend's premiere of CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT. Christiane Amanpour uncovers terrors new breeding ground, "The War Within" at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

You are watching CNN. We are the most trusted name in news.


SANCHEZ: Seventeen months after Hurricane Katrina, many New Orleans neighborhoods are still devastated and abandoned. About some half of the pre-storm population remains in the city and still raging on -- debate and disputes over FEMA and insurance payments to the victims are a problem as well.

We moved to the control room to bring you this story now. It's really about the controversy in Katrina. We told you about part of the story before. It's material ripe for movie making. So many directors thought so.

One film in particular premiering tonight at the Sundance Film Festival picks up on that. "Low and Behold" is what it's called. It focus on insurance claims adjusters and their dealings with hurricane victims. CNN's entertainment reporter Brooke Anderson has a sneak peek at this flick.


ZACK GODSHALL, FILMMAKER: It's really strange to come back here. The last time we were here we were filming in front of the shed here.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Filmmakers Zack Godshall and Barlow Jacobs have a story to tell. The main characters may be fictional but the situation is real.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole house shifted. You could see all the cracks. ANDERSON: Eight months after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the pair began filming a movie in New Orleans uses people and places hit hardest by the storm.

BARLOW JACOBS, FILMMAKER: What was so powerful about it was coming to the set every day and having your cast and crew come to set, some of whom were still leaving in FEMA trailers, some of whom were still coping with the death or loss of family and loved ones. And not just to tell a story we had written but in a lot of ways, like Zach was saying, to tell their story. And it was very humbling.

ANDERSON: Their film, "Low and Behold", revolves around claims adjusters, the people who played such a key role in determining how much insurance companies paid victims of Katrina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best way to help these people is to get in, measure the damage, get out, do as many claims as possible.

ANDERSON: The story is based loosely on Jacobs' experience as an actual claims adjuster.

JACOBS: I worked in South Florida as a claims adjuster for three months, worked seven days a week, 18, 20 hours a day. Sleeping on couches and my car, trying to eat as little as possible just saving every penny I could. After that, I moved back to New Orleans. Zach and I wrote the script. And then we used the money that I had made money claims adjusting and other funds that I was able to get together and made "Low and Behold."

ANDERSON: They incorporated real people into their narrative.

GODSHALL: A lot of people that we met on the street that are in the film and what they had to say on that particular day and how we interacted with them as filmmakers and as actors gave the film a texture of immediacy, spontaneity and reality that you don't really get to see that often.

ANDERSON: The filmmakers are hoping to follow in the footsteps of other independent issue oriented films like "Super Size Me" and "Thank You for Smoking." Those movies debuted here at the Sundance Film Festival and made a big impact.

Even as they unveil the film at Sundance, their thoughts are with the people in New Orleans.

JACOBS: The city is still really messed up. And I think the film is going to show that. And you're going to see there's still a lot to be done.

ANDERSON: Godshall and Jacobs say if they're able to sell the film at Sundance they will donate a portion of the proceeds to hurricane survivors.

Brooke Anderson, CNN, Park City, Utah.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SANCHEZ: So much more ahead. Up next, the premiere of CNN's SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT. Chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour takes you inside the Islamic conflict under way in the U.K. "The War Within." It's up next on CNN.

The latest on today's stop stories. That is coming up in just three minutes.