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Child COVID Hospitalizations Soar to New Pandemic High; Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Tests Positive for COVID-19; Cities Across U.S. Broke Homicide Records in 2021. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 02, 2022 - 19:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: And the tragic murder of a 13-year-old unsolved until now. CNN gets exclusive access as police crack open a 22-year-old cold case.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Just in to CNN, President Biden and Vice President Harris will deliver remarks on Thursday to commemorate the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. And as the one-year anniversary of that dark day grows closer, the congressional committee investigating the insurrection is revealing startling new information about what was happening at the White House as the violence unfolded.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): We have significant testimony that leads us to believe that the White House had been told to do something. We want to verify all of it so that when we produce our report and we have the hearings, the public will have an opportunity to see for themselves.


BROWN: CNN Capitol Hill reporter Melanie Zanona joins me now.

So, Melanie, what do we know about this testimony?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Well, investigators have really zeroed in on those 187 minutes that Trump was publicly silent while his supporters stormed the Capitol building and we have learned that a number of people from Republican lawmakers, to White House staffers, to Trump's own family members were trying to get through to the former president and begging him to call it off, and he didn't, at least not for those 187 minutes.

Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the select committee, was asked about what Trump did and didn't do during that critical time period. Take a listen to what she had to say.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The committee has firsthand testimony now that he was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching the attack on television as the assault on the Capitol occurred. Members of his staff were pleading with him to go on television, to tell people to stop. We know Leader McCarthy was pleading with him to do that. We know members of his family, we know his daughter, we have firsthand testimony that his daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence.


ZANONA: This a significant revelation because it suggests that someone very close to the former president is talking to the committee. This isn't just someone with secondhand knowledge. Now it's unclear whether that inaction rises to something criminal. That is something that investigators are still working to determine. But Bennie Thompson said earlier today that if they determined a criminal act was committed, they have no problem making a criminal referral to the Department of Justice, and that is something that could be included in their final report, which they're aiming to release this fall -- Pam.

BROWN: Melanie Zanona, thanks so much for the latest on that front.

And tonight, a series of new polls are giving us a look at the psyches of Americans nearly one year since the January 6th insurrection. So let's dig into some of the more eye-popping findings. Here we go. So this is the first poll we're going to take a look at here. This is from CBS News-UGov poll.

And if you look here at the numbers, look 85 percent of Democrats believed that this was an insurrection, what happened last January 6th. 21 percent, however, of the GOP say that it wasn't an insurrection. That's not what they believe it was. 56 percent of those in the GOP said it was defending freedom.

So let's go on to the next poll that we have. This is the ABC News- Ipsos poll, and as you see here, look at the divide. 93 percent of Democrats, no surprise in a way, say that Joe Biden is the legitimate president, but then you have 71 percent of Republicans saying here that Joe Biden is not legitimate, not the legitimate president. That number has been steady over the course of this last year and it is just alarming to see that that number is still 71 percent.

Let's take a look at this one. Is it ever justified for citizens to take violent action against the government? U.S. adults overall, 34 percent, and look at the divide here. You have Democrats, 23 percent saying that it could be justified to use violence against the government and 40 percent of Republicans saying that it could be justified to use violence against the government.

And finally let's take a look at this poll here. In future presidential elections, what do you expect? 62 percent say violence over losing and you have 38 percent saying losing side will concede peacefully. Only 38 percent saying that they expect the losing side will concede peacefully. Wow.

I want to bring in CNN political commentator Scott Jennings.

Scott, nice to see you.


Look, a majority of Republicans, you just saw there as I broke it down, don't consider January 6th an insurrection, 40 percent say violence could justified against the government, 71 percent say Biden's victory wasn't legitimate. As a Republican yourself, how concerning this is for you?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm very concerned about the possibility of political violence in the future because we just had some earlier in the last year and obviously this is a huge step up from where we've been at the conclusion of our elections. We have had previous elections where the other side didn't exactly accept it. Democrats didn't accept Trump. Democrats didn't accept Bush. Republicans haven't accepted Biden.

BROWN: Hold on, hold on, Scott. I got to stop you there. OK. Let's talk about -- go ahead, I'll let you go. I just want to make sure you're not making the equivalence there.


JENNINGS: Yes, my point is Republicans didn't accept Biden and then, you know, a mob of them went to the Capitol and escalated, you know, this lack of acceptance of an election result and so I'm concerned that we've seen escalation in this -- you know, the numbers of people who are willing to say my person didn't win, therefore I believe it must have been stolen, therefore I must take some kind of an action.

It's very concerning. And you know, it's not healthy for the country and everybody ought to be concerned about it.

BROWN: And also a big difference, Scott, it's worth noting, that you had the sitting president saying that the election was stolen which happened, you know, obviously even before the election he was saying this, then leading up to January 6th and he continues with that drumbeat, that messaging, that the election was stolen even though we know it wasn't, and he holds more power now in the Republican Party arguably than ever before.

Why do you think that is? I mean, because I remember right after the insurrection, you have Republicans denouncing him, they were willing to call him out, and now, you know, he's, they clearly have receded and that's no longer happening.

JENNINGS: Well, he's still the leading figure head of the Republican Party and clearly, you know, he's signaling to people that he intends to run to president again. He has stayed active in politics, stays active keeping up with his supporters and engaging in these political campaigns. He has not faded off. He's not retired. I mean, he's clearly endeavoring to come back and he's got a whole bunch of people in the Republican Party that want him to come back.

Now there are some that don't, and there'll be a primary, I assume, about which way we're going to go in the future. I would say he's the odds-on favorite for the nomination in '24. I don't think he'll get it without a fight but I think he is quite clearly the front runner and it's his for the taking if he wants it.

My view is, Pamela, he violated his oath of office on January 6th. We're going to have to reckon with that as a party in 2024, and makes it hell of a lot harder to reckon with if he's nominee than if he's not.

BROWN: All right, Scott. I know you like to have the airtime all to yourself but you've got to share it with Kirsten Powers, Democrat who's joining us now. We had a little trouble getting you on here.

JENNINGS: Of course. Of course. I would be glad to share it. Be glad to share it with Kirsten. Of course.

BROWN: I know you would. Just giving you a hard time. All right, so, Kirsten, we were just going over the poll numbers just what Americans think about the election and January 6th and democracy as a whole. And it's pretty alarming to see some of these views.

I'm wondering, do you think that Joe Biden and Democrats as a whole should be sounding the alarm more about all of this and the threat to democracy?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean I feel like they are. I often hear people saying that, you know, nobody's talking about this when I feel like it's almost the only thing that anybody is talking about. So I don't know that necessarily Joe Biden is going to be talking about it, but it's certainly something Democrats have talked about and the president has talked about it to the extent that he has discussed voting rights, which is obviously very important in terms of preserving democracy and the concerns around the instability, really, of democracy right now.

So could they talk about it more? Absolutely. And do polls like this make it even more necessary to be talking about it? I would say yes.

BROWN: All right, and Scott, I want to ask you this. Earlier today committee chairwoman Liz Cheney revealed the committee was told firsthand there were people urging President Trump to intervene and stop the violence at the Capitol. Let's listen to what she said.


CHENEY: Any man who would provoke a violent assault on the Capitol to stop the counting of electoral votes, any man who would watch television as police officers were being beaten, as his supporters were invading the Capitol of the United States is clearly unfit for future office. Clearly can never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Hillary Clinton said a couple of weeks ago that if he runs and wins that could be the end of our democracy. Do you share that fear?


BROWN: So, Scott, do you agree with Cheney's assessment, both that Donald Trump should never be back in the Oval Office and that his re- election could effectively destroy the country?

JENNINGS: Well, I don't prefer him for 2024. I wish he would retire, and I wish the Republicans would nominate someone else and I wish we would move on from his era.


I'm fearful that he is going to run then he's going to be the nominee and we'll have to reckon with that if and when that occurs.

Do I think democracy will be destroyed? No, I'm not an alarmist in that way. However, he clearly, I mean, look, I think some of the things that are coming out we already knew. He whipped up a mob, he stood by and watched the mob attack the Capitol, he ignored people pleading with him to stop the mob.

I mean, we sort of already knew, you know, the extent that everybody knew this was a disaster except for him and his failure to do anything about it was a clear dereliction of duty and he violated his oath of office. So we knew all of these things. I think the country and its institutions do have strength apart from him. And we'll see how it all works out in 2024, but I generally agree that the things coming out of this committee ought to be taken into consideration by every American before they consider voting for him again in 2024.

BROWN: What do you think, Kirsten?

POWERS: I think that he poses a grave threat to democracy and I think -- and you can look no further than the fact that he still has never conceded that he lost the election, so, you know, this is not something that has happened before and there's a real hostility towards the idea of, you know, free and fair elections where, you know, the winner is the winner and the loser and the loser.

And so I think that he's shown his hostility towards democracy and a lot of people in the Republican Party have gone along with it or at least felt that what happened on January 6th was patriotic or was a form of protest when in fact it was actually trying to stop the counting and certification of an election. So if that doesn't undermine democracy, I don't know what does.

And I think that we know some things about what happened on January 6th, but a lot of it is speculation, and so it is pretty big news if they're having the information that Liz Cheney says that they have around what the president was doing. And I don't know that he thinks it was a disaster.

I think, you know, that really is the question, right? That, did he actually like what he was seeing? And so these are the kinds of things that I think the committee is trying to get to the bottom of. BROWN: Yes, that 187 minutes of inaction. All right, so I want to ask

you this, Kirsten. Congressman Peter Meyer was one of a dozen House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in the wake of the January 6th attack. Now he's warning that there may be no other option come 2024. Let's listen to what he said.


REP. PETER MEIJER (R-MI): There is no alternative. There is no other path. And given how President Biden, when had he was elected into office, you know, said he would be moderate and look for bipartisan solutions, but then after, and frankly I blame the former president for this, after we lost the two Senate seats in Georgia and the Senate flipped, it became an exercise in trying to be an LBJ or FDR-style presidency and enact transformational change in the absence of any compelling mandate from the American people to do so.

So that gave the rallying signal, that created a very steep divide, and at the end of the day, there's no other option right now in the Republican Party. And that's a sad test.


BROWN: What do you think about what you just heard from Peter Meijer there, Kirsten?

POWERS: Is he saying Trump's the only option?

BROWN: Well, also, he's putting some of the blame on Joe Biden, saying that basically his administration is acting like they're, you know, the FDR administration.

POWERS: Right. Yes, I get that part.

BROWN: When in fact --


BROWN: Go ahead.

POWERS: It wasn't clear to me if he's saying and then that means the only thing we can do is bring Donald Trump back.

BROWN: And he also blamed Trump -- right. So he said there's no other option for 2024 and he blamed Trump for Biden -- the Democrats having the majority in the House and the Senate because of what happened in Georgia. But I'm just curious what you think about him putting the blame on Joe Biden, basically, in some ways for the partisan divide in this country.

POWERS: Yes, I mean, the partisan divide in this country was already happening even before Donald Trump came on the scene but I would say Donald Trump poured gasoline on the fire. I don't know that Joe Biden has really done much more than try to get some programs implemented, passed through legislation that hasn't passed. So the idea that, like, there's been this FDR transformation when in fact, Joe Manchin put a stop to it right before the election and they may come back and be able to piece some things together but if they do they'll have to do it with Republicans or they'll have to do a much smaller package if they do it only with Democrats.

So the idea that that has somehow caused division, it hasn't even happened. So, you know, I think that that's a little far-fetched. I don't really see Joe Biden as somebody who's really stirring the pot in terms of cultural division.

BROWN: Very quickly, Scott. What do you think about what he said that Donald Trump is the only option for 2024?


JENNINGS: Well, there are a lot of options. We have a lot of people that would be far better presidential candidates and far better presidents. Tim Scott, Ron DeSantis, I mean, go down the line. We've got a lot of possibilities. And by the way, so do the Democrats and my short simple view is, both parties would be better off to move on from both of these guys. I think the country would be a lot more satisfied with our next election if we did.

BROWN: All right, Scott Jennings, Kirsten Powers, got to leave it there. Thank you both for your time tonight.

POWERS: Thank you.

BROWN: And when we come back, Prince Andrew is feeling the heat after his attempt to block a sexual assault lawsuit is thrown out by a federal judge.

Also ahead tonight, new information on how the Omicron variant could be worse for young kids. I'll speak to a pediatrician on the front lines in Texas.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.


BROWN: A sexual assault lawsuit against Britain's Prince Andrew is moving forward. A Manhattan judge says the prince must turn over key legal documents in a suit brought by Virginia Giuffre, a woman who says she was forced to have sex with the prince when she was 17 after being trafficked by convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Lawyers for Prince Andrew had tried to argue that Giuffre has lived in Australia for 19 years and cannot legally sue him in the U.S., but judge disagreed and oral arguments are set to begin in the coming days.

Prince Andrew who was featured in a photograph with Giuffre has strongly denied the claims against him, telling the BBC in a 2019 interview he has no memory of ever meeting her.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The world has now seen the photo that Virginia Roberts provided taken by Epstein, we understand, in Ghislaine Maxwell's house.

PRINCE ANDREW, DUKE OF YORK: Here's the problem, I've never seen Epstein with a camera in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it was Virginia Roberts' camera. She said a little Kodak one that she lent to Epstein, who took a photo and your arm is around her waist.

PRINCE ANDEW: And I don't remember -- listen, I don't remember, I don't remember that photograph ever being taken. I don't remember going upstairs in the house because that photograph is taken upstairs. And I'm not entirely convinced that, I mean that is what I would describe as me in that picture, but I can't, we can't be certain as to whether or not that's my hand on her, whatever it is, left side.



BROWN: CNN royal correspondent Max Foster is in London tonight.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, an incredibly difficult issue for the British royal family. The monarchy can't seem to be interfering with the legal process, so they're very much leaving it to Prince Andrew's team. And Prince Andrew's team are trying on various levels to have the case simply dismissed. So one attempt was made on the grounds that the U.S. court doesn't have jurisdiction because Giuffre has been living in Australia. But that claim is being thrown out so the case continues.

The next attempt by Prince Andrew's team to have this case thrown out comes on Monday when a document will be unsealed. Now Prince Andrew's lawyers believe there is an agreement between Giuffre and Epstein where she agrees not to pursue cases like this one against Prince Andrew. Wait to see whether or not there's truth in that because that document will be unsealed on Monday.

Then on Tuesday the judge in this case will look at these claims for dismissal and weigh them up. If the case continues from there, then we're looking at possible depositions or requests for them from Prince Andrew, his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, potentially the Duchess of Sussex as well. Various people that may have something to say in terms of his case.

Now one of the key claims from Giuffre is that she had sex with Prince Andrew at Ghislaine Maxwell's flat in London. Earlier in the evening, Giuffre claims to have been in a nightclub with Prince Andrew. He was sweating profusely. Prince Andrew denies ever being at the nightclub, he says he was at a different restaurant elsewhere in London. He also says he had a medical condition that meant he couldn't sweat at the time.

Giuffre's team have asked for documentary evidence of that medical condition but Prince Andrew's team have said he doesn't hold those documents. He says it's a private medical matter and that it's immaterial to the case anyway. So those documents haven't been delivered. We'll wait to see on Tuesday what the judge has to say about that as well, Pamela.

BROWN: All right, Max Foster, thank you so much.

CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan, joins me now. So, Paul, there's this hearing about this set for Tuesday. What do you expect?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is shaping up to be a very, very interesting hearing I think because, number one, Judge Caplan, he didn't actually say there's no merit to the motion to dismiss on what we call jurisdictional grounds, that the federal court has no right to be hearing the case. What he said was it hadn't been pled properly by the attorneys in question and that there might be more evidence relevant to that that would develop during depositions and whatnot.

So we may hear Prince Andrew's attorneys renewing that motion to dismiss at some point farther down the line. But we're also going to see, I think, next week, this coming week, a lot more of the details regarding her allegations against Prince Andrew. She outlined in the complaint, of course, that she was a minor. She, and he forced her to have sex in London and in New York City and possibly in other locations like the Virgin Islands.

BROWN: And for those who aren't familiar with the story, explain why Virginia Giuffre is asking Prince Andrew to turn over proof that he can't sweat?

CALLAN: Well, this is, yes, this is a bizarre thing, but he made a public statement that she, she made a reference to the fact that he was sweating profusely at some, one of these sexual encounters, and he publicly said in an interview that he suffers from a medical problem that has to do with his ability to sweat. So whether he sweats or he doesn't sweat is going to be a big issue in the case.

BROWN: And if this case advances, who could be interviewed? I mean, do you expect that members of the royal family could be questioned about Prince Andrew?

CALLAN: Well, in theory, if they were in the United States and you could get jurisdiction over them, yes, that would happen. But of course, the royal family operates under special protection in the British Isles, and I'm rather doubtful that we're going to see the Queen or anybody at that level testify for Prince Andrew.

I think their attitude kind of is Prince Andrew is on his own in this lawsuit. So you might see Sarah Ferguson come in because she had been married to him at one time and maybe she would have relevant testimony, but in terms of compelling the royal family to come to the United States and testify, I don't think you're going to see that happen.


BROWN: Paul Callan, thanks so much and Happy New Year to you.

CALLAN: Happy New Year to you, Pam.

BROWN: Thanks so much.

Well, at least one health expert says the Omicron variant could be more dangerous for children. Up next, I'll ask a pediatrician about that and about kids returning to classrooms. Stay with us.



BROWN: Well, the FDA has expected to authorize Pfizer booster shots for 12 to 15-year-olds any day now. That comes as the number of children hospitalized with COVID is at its highest level of the entire pandemic.

I want to bring in Dr. Stanley Spinner, chief medical officer and vice president at Texas Children's Pediatrics and Urgent Care in Houston.

Dr. Spinner, I know how busy you've been. Thanks for joining us. What are you seeing in children who are admitted to your hospital?

DR. STANLEY SPINNER, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER AND VICE PRESIDENT, TEXAS CHILDREN'S PEDIATRICS AND URGENT CARE: We're seeing a lot of symptoms that start off as just, you know, routine symptoms of a cold, runny nose, a couple, sore throat, fever. Those are really common now with Omicron, and then unfortunately then they can escalate into more severe symptoms, with respiratory difficulties which often then leads to them being hospitalized.

BROWN: Is there a certain pattern here? Do most of the children hospitalized with COVID now with Omicron have comorbidities?

SPINNER: Well, most of them do. However, we have to remember that a lot of the comorbidities are extremely common in our children, unfortunately. Asthma being one of them, obesity being another one. It's extremely common to see.


But then, having said that, we do have a number of our kids that are sick enough to be admitted who are absolutely healthy without any comorbidities. So, that's something that's been striking and certainly surprising to many who used to think that it was only those with underlying health conditions that were vulnerable.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN NEWSROOM: So, just to bottom line this, what is the key difference you're seeing in how the omicron variant is impacting children who end up in your hospital and previous variants of COVID?

SPINNER: I think it's really the sheer number of children getting infected. Omicron is so much more contagious than the previous variants have been and families, you know, especially as we got closer and closer to the holidays, that we're out and about, that we're doing more and more things. I think a lot of the safeguards people had in place before had been lost, less wearing of masks but more socializing, especially in indoor areas, so, so many kids getting infected. And when the sheer numbers go up, that percent, unfortunately, starts to get more of our kids put into the hospital.

BROWN: And then you had former FDA Commissioner Scott Gotlieb saying today that the omicron variant may be more of a threat to toddlers because it appears to attack the upper airway more than the lower airway. Based on what you've seen, would you disagree with that assessment? SPINNER: Well, I can tell you, a lot of our toddlers have certainly

been admitted with those kinds of symptoms and even before COVID, a lot of the viruses started off as upper airway viruses but then sometimes could still lead into lower airway. But, again, our toddlers are unvaccinated so they are extremely vulnerable. And, again, just sheer numbers as more of them get infected, there's going to be enough of them who get sick enough to warrant hospitalization.

BROWN: Omicron is the most contagious variant we have seen. How worried are you about kids returning to the classroom this week?

SPINNER: Yes. Well, for us, this week and then even next week, when our largest school system gets back, I think we are going to see our numbers increasing even more, unfortunately, as a result of that. Here in Texas, a lot of our school districts do not require masking. The good news is that some actually have that hadn't before. But having said that, I think a lot of our kids are going to be situations where they're going to be exposed to the virus. Those that are 5 to 11, our vaccination rates in this area are about 15 percent, our adolescents maybe around 15 percent. So we really have a lot of our kids that are very vulnerable, that are not protected. So, as school starts, I think we're going to really see those numbers going up before it finally starts to plateau.

BROWN: And you've already seen more pediatric patients in your hospital. Is your hospital preparing given the fact that schools will be back in session soon, preparing for even more of an uptick in patients coming in, young patients?

SPINNER: Oh, yes. So, here at Texas Children's Hospital and in our outpatient pediatric clinics throughout the city, we've been preparing and we actually prepare for surges like this even before COVID started, would have been preparing throughout the last two years of this pandemic. So, you know, looking at extra shifts for our employees, our physicians, or, you know, understand the importance of being available for our patients, we're seeing them in the office, we're seeing them in the hospital. We're doing to telemedicines visits. So, we are prepared but the challenge is that, as the numbers continue to grow, it gets tougher to keep up with that demand.

BROWN: So, given everything you laid out and for parents watching right now, what is your advice to them?

SPINNER: Well, I think the most important advice to them is that if you haven't vaccinated your children, do it now. Don't keep delaying. Don't keep procrastinating. The sooner you start getting your kids vaccinated, the sooner they'll get that protection that they need.

We understand that most kids, thankfully, who get infected are going to do very well, but you don't want to be the parent whose child doesn't do well and ends up in the hospital. There's nothing more traumatic, I can tell you, as a pediatrician, nothing more traumatic for a parent to be in a hospital with a very sick child. So, get your kids protected.

In the meantime, be sure you and your children are wearing masks whenever you're around other people, especially people outside of your household. And getting back to school, I know that that's going to be something -- we got to get our kids in school, we got to keep them in school. But talk to your officials at the school. Be sure that everyone there is wearing masks if possible. Talk to them about keeping the doors and the windows open especially down here when it's not that cold usually so we can get better ventilation.

And, again, avoid taking your kids places where you don't need to take them, whether indoors, around a lot of people, where you don't really know what their vaccination status is or what their habits are as far as protecting themselves.

BROWN: Speaking of schools over the weekend, we've seen a number of school districts across the country announce transition to online learning at least a week or two. Is that an approach that you support, just given how transmissible omicron is?

SPINNER: I would say it depends on the scenario. I think if their scenario, where extremely high transmission is happening, and the schools are not prepared to improve their ventilation, then that might be an approach.


But, again, we really want our kids in schools. If we're talking about one to two-week delay to try to get past the peak of this, I think that's reasonable but not certainly, something, as a pediatrician, we're trying to promote kids being at home. We want them back in the classrooms as soon as possible.

BROWN: All right. Dr. Stanley Spinner, thank you and thank you for all the work you're doing during this pandemic, now in year three.

Well, truth eluded detectives more than 20 years, but, now, finally, a murder of a 13-year-old girl is getting justice thanks to science and old fashioned police work. Part two of our exclusive look at how the cold case was getting cracked, next.


BROWN: Well, now, a breakthrough in a murderer mystery haunting top NYPD detectives for more than two decades. Last hour, we told you how CNN was granted exclusive access as police reopen the cold case of 13- year-old Minerliz Soriano. Here is part two of Bryn Gingras' behind the scenes reporting as an arrest was made and the people who worked so long on the case realized they finally cracked it.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In November 2021, three years after Reiman handed in his badge nearly 23 years since Minerliz's killing, the city announced it made an arrest.

DARCEL D. CLARK, BRONX COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Minerliz was not just a grim statistic or a case number, she was a vibrant child who should be with us today enjoying life.

GINGRAS: A grand jury indicted 49-year-old Joseph Martinez on accounts of second-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty. He has no prior criminal history. Through his attorney, Martinez says he is innocent. Martinez identified with the help of this team and NYPD's forensic unit.


After Homicide Bureau requested familial DNA in 2018, Chief Emanuel Katranakis took on the laborious duty of ensuring that the case met the strict criteria the state requires for an application. It took two years for the New York States Crime Lab to come back with a familial DNA fit.

DEPUTY CHIEF EMANUEL KATRANAKIS, FORENSICS DIVISION, NYPD: That was the moment that made the difference, like the case is going to be solved.

GINGRAS: The familial DNA hit gave detectives the name of a convicted offender found in the state's DNA database. This means the forensic team would be looking for someone related to that person, as possibly being Minerliz's killer. To help narrow down the possibilities, detectives formed a family tree and identified five male relatives of that offender.

KATRANAKIS: We look at their ages. We look at the locations where they're residing. We look at the criminal history of the individuals.

GINGRAS: That helped eliminate two of the men who were too young at the time of the crime. Investigators were then left with three, who they determined to be sons of the convicted offender. Taking a closer look at the evidence, detectives realized one of them, Martinez, lived in the Minerliz's building when the murder happened. They collected a discarded DNA sample from him and police say, results came back with a direct match..

KATRANAKIS: There's only one individual that deposited his DNA on her front shirt. That is unequivocal.

GINGRAS: The city says this is the first cold case solved by using familial DNA.

MALCOLM REIMAN, FOMRE DETECTIVE, NYPD: What happens with this new type of technology is you go from a list of 43 people to one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That big crater you saw in the middle of the moon, that's that crater right there.

GINGRAS: Martinez, who was 27 years old at the time of the murderer, also goes by Jupiter Joe. He gave sidewalk astronomy classes, videos of him encouraging kids and adults to see the stars through his telescope are online.

LT. SEAN O'TOOLE, COMMANDING OFFICER, NYPD BRONX HOMICIDE SQUAD: Astronomy, stars and everything she was interested in is something that our suspect is interested in. He's on the internet going around talking about it. So, there's a connection there.

GINGRAS: Detectives discovered another connection, old case notes from 1999 showed Martinez told police he'd seen Minerliz around their apartment complex getting mail and selling candy. When Martinez was questioned in late November and denied any physical contact with Minerliz, detectives say that's when they knew he was lying, ultimately sealing the case against him.

REIMAN: He was actually fifth on the list of individuals that I did wanted to look at and talk to.

GINGRAS: What does that say to you?

REIMAN: It says we were heading in the right direction. These cases are so difficult to do and there are so many setbacks and dead ends. To see this guy will stand in a courtroom and face justice, it's an incredible gratification.

KIMBERLY ORTIZ, CHILDHOOD FRIEND OF MINERLIZ SORIANO: Just to see the person brought in prison is good enough for me.

GINGRAS: Minerliz Soriano, a bubbly girl from the Bronx, she daydreamed about love, rainbows and stars. There's no way she could have known traces of her live would one be in boxes on a detective's desk. Her smiling school picture a reminder of who they were working for.

REIMAN: I hope that she sees all the people that cared, all the people that put in so much effort over so many years, eating meals off the dashboard of a car and that she -- that she knows she wasn't forgotten.

GINGRAS: She was just 13, deserving of the life she imagined.

REIMAN: I hope she's smiling at us.


BROWN: Wow. Thanks to Brynn Gingras for bringing us that reporting.

Murders have soared to all-time highs in cities across the country. Why is it happening and what can be done and why? I'll ask a member of the Council on Criminal Justice, next.



BROWN: Breaking news, just into CNN, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has tested positive for COVID.

CNN's Barbara Starr joins me now by phone. So, Barbara, what are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Well, good evening, Pamela. We have just received a very rare Sunday night statement from the secretary of defense, telling the press corps that he tested positive this morning for COVID-19 after exhibiting symptoms while he was working at home on holiday leave. The secretary says his symptoms are mild, following his physician's directions and that he will quarantine himself at home for the next five days in accordance with CDC guidelines.

He is fully vaccinated. He has had the booster. He says that he would, to the extent possible, attend meetings virtually from home that he needs to participate in. He will retain all the authorities of the secretary of defense, and the deputy secretary, Kathleen Hicks, will represent him in person, and other situations where he cannot be or cannot participate virtually.

The secretary details that his last meeting with President Biden occurred on December 21st, a Tuesday, more than a week before he began to experience symptom symptoms. He tested negative that morning, of the day he met with the president. He has not been in the Pentagon since Thursday for a very brief meeting. He said everyone was masked and socially distanced.

You know, Austin has really been taking the lead in the public arena at the Pentagon to urge troops to get vaccinated, to get boosted. He reiterates in his message how important he feels that is.

Anybody like the secretary of defense, business will go on. The business of the U.S. military will go on. He has a full communication suite at home. He can participate virtually in meetings. He can be on the phone with the president, with any of the military leadership really on a moment's notice. So, it's not that the business of the military and the business of national defense will suffer or be interrupted, but perhaps a reminder how widespread right now all of this COVID-19 virus is spreading here in Washington.


We're seeing a lot of it and, of course, everyone seeing it across the country. Pamela?

BROWN: Yes. It's hit a lot of people right now. All right, Barbara Starr, thank you so much. We'll be right back.


BROWN: At least 12 major U.S. cities hit all time homicide records in 2021. Others like Atlanta and Chicago weren't on that list but had more homicides in 2021 than 2020. New York's new mayor -- New York City's new mayor, Eric Adams, emphasized his new approach to policing, saying the goal is not responding to crime but preventing it.

The Council on Criminal Justice examined data from 29 major cities from June to September of last year and found an increase in firearm related crimes compared to 2020. The council will release its final recommendations on reducing violence January 12th.

I want to bring in a member of that Council, Richard Rosenfeld. He's also a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri St. Louis.

So, let's start out with your report coming on the 12th. What do you expect it to show?

RICHARD ROSENFELD, MEMBER, COUNCIL ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE: We expect it to show with respect to homicide a somewhat more mixed picture in '21 than we saw in 2020. In 2020, nearly every city we looked at experienced a rise in homicide and, in many cases, very large rises.


This year, the situation is somewhat different. We do have cities -- you've mentioned a few of them, we do have cities that are showing very, very large rises, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Austin, Texas, Portland, Oregon. We have other cities, however, Milwaukee, Boston, Dallas, Cleveland that are experiencing, in some cases, sizable declines.

So, the homicide picture this year, though we have a long way to go, is somewhat more mixed than what we were seeing last year.

BROWN: Why do you think that is?

ROSENFELD: I think in part it's because some of the conditions that appear to have been associated with the rise last year have subdued somewhat. The pandemic, although with the resent omicron outbreak, you know, all bets may be off on that one but, generally speaking, through '21, the pandemic subsided somewhat and the population restrictions associated with it were reduced.

The enormous concern over police violence, especially after the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis, while that concern persists, I think it's fair to say has subsided somewhat. We haven't seen mass demonstrations of the kind we saw last year this year, and that suggests the confidence and trust in the police, which I think was in a crisis mode last year, may have settled a bit.

BROWN: A lot of cities, I should say, several that had activists push to defund the police on increase and homicides, do you think there is any correlation?

ROSENFELD: I don't really. We're seeing cities where there are -- where the activist movement is quite strong with increases in homicide and we're seeing cities with, you know, with less pressure from the activist community also showing increases and cities with activists and fewer activists showing declines. So, now, I don't think what we're looking at here is the impact of activism on homicide. I think what we're looking at is the slow and rather fitful subduing of some of the conditions that gave rise to the homicide increase we saw last year.

BROWN: There has been an increase in firearm-related crimes. Are further gun control measures needed?

ROSENFELD: My personal view is yes, but I think we would be waiting a long time in many states for regulations to tighten sufficiently. There's a lot that can be done short of changing firearm regulations. And if you'd like to talk about them, I'd be happy to do that.

BROWN: Well, I do want to ask you one more question before we let you go. Are there any other trends you and your group have noticed about the increase in crime?

ROSENFELD: One trend we're looking at closely and we'll be looking at in our end of the year report coming out in mid-January is what happens, what's been happening with property crimes. Property crimes have been going down, actually, for many years in most places and certainly came down during the pandemic.

We -- there are some preliminary indications suggesting the decline in property crime may be flattening out and, indeed, some places we may be seeing increases and so we're going to be taking a look at property crime as well as violent crime in our next report due out in mid- January.

BROWN: All right. Richard Rosenfeld, thank you so much for your time today.

ROSENFELD: Thank you.

BROWN: And a quick programming note for you, friends, collaborators, legends, Carole King, James Taylor and an unforgettable concert film, Just Call Out My Name airs tonight at 9:00 right here on CNN.

Your next hour of Newsroom starts right now.