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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

NFL's Conference Championship Games Set; Double-Murder Trial Of Alex Murdaugh Begins Today; Priscilla Presley Eulogizes Lisa Marie With Granddaughter's Poem. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 23, 2023 - 05:30   ET



IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the big question is going to be will the virus be brought to less-developed parts of China and what will the impact be in areas that don't have as developed health care systems? And we're just going to have to wait, and watch, and see.


All right, Ivan Watson for us in Hong Kong. Thanks, Ivan.

Quick hits around the globe right now.

Burkina Faso's military government is demanding French troops leave the country within a month, according to the government's press agency. Thousands are now protesting the French armed forces based there since 2018.

U.S. customs officials say they're seeing a rise in egg smuggling from Mexico as prices skyrocket in the U.S. Bringing uncooked eggs across the border can result to up to $10,000 in fines.

New Zealand's Labour Party has unanimously selected education minister Chris Hipkins to succeed current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after she announced her resignation last week. Hipkins said he expects to be sworn in Wednesday.

All right. Ahead, former South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh going on trial in a matter of hours for the murder of his son and his wife.

And the Bengals and 49ers advancing to the Conference Championships. The Bleacher Report is next.



ROMANS: All right. The NFL's Conference Championships are set after an action-packed weekend, including a rematch between the Bengals and the Bills whose game, of course, was canceled after Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field.

Carolyn Manno has this morning's Bleacher Report. What a weekend.


Yes, and what a great moment --


MANNO: -- for Bills fans and, really, the NFL. I mean, this is one of those moments that so many people have been looking forward to. Damar Hamlin back at the stadium cheering on his teammates less than three weeks -- just three weeks after collapsing on the field. In his first public appearance since the near-tragedy, the 24-year-old visited the locker room pre-game before heading up to the suite to watch the game with his family.

Hamlin is still on oxygen. He does remain upbeat, though. And late in the first half, he was shown on the scoreboard making his signature heart sign. And as you might expect, everybody was just so delighted to see him. The crowd went crazy when they saw him there.


MITCH MORSE, BUFFALO BILLS CENTER: It was really good to see him. I'm really happy for the fans, the crowd for him to be able to go out there. And he's worked very hard to get in the position he's at right now.

JOSH ALLEN, BUFFALO BILLS QUARTERBACK: And just his presence is a warm feeling. And obviously, we wanted to play for him and continue our mission.


MANNO: A little bit of disappointment there because the storybook ending just wasn't to be for the Bills in this rematch against a very motivated Cincinnati team. The Bengals came out in the game strong. They did not look back.

Quarterback Joe Burrow completed his first nine passes leading Cincinnati to a 14-0 lead after the team's first two possessions. And you just got the sense that they were not going to be denied. The Bengals outplayed the Bills in all aspects of the game. They never trailed in the 27-10 win.

They head into next week's AFC Championship game against the Chiefs not having lost a game since Halloween.


JOE BURROW, CINCINNATI BENGALS QUARTERBACK: A complete game from everybody -- offense, defense, special teams -- domination from start to finish. That's what we expected. The job's not finished. We've got another big one next week on the road.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MANNO: And you can add another chapter to the Cinderella story of 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, the last pick in last April's draft, throwing for 215 yards with no turnovers against the Cowboys. Ninety- five of those yards went to tight end George Kittle. You can see the all-pro had the crowd on the edge of their seats.

This was a tedious game. Late in the third quarter, bobbling the pass a couple of times off his hands and even his facemask before making that crazy circus grab. And that set up San Francisco for its only touchdown of the game.

So the Niners go on to win a tight one, 19-12.


GEORGE KITTLE, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS TIGHT END: He gave me a catchable ball and I was just trying to be dramatic just for T.V., man. Just trying to be a little dramatic and get the ratings up. That's all we're here for.


MANNO: The ratings were way up already.

The Niners now heading to Philadelphia to play the Eagles in the NFC Championship game at 3:00 eastern next Sunday. Then it's going to be a rematch of last year's AFC title game with the Bengals facing the top- seeded Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Kickoff scheduled for 6:30 for that one.

No shortage of storylines, Christine.

ROMANS: Right. Brock Purdy --

MANNO: I know you're rooting for Brock Purdy.

ROMANS: I know. I mean, I have a longstanding -- he's from Arizona but he went to Iowa State as a Cyclone. And, I mean, Iowa loves him. He's got a great career ahead of him. Mr. Irrelevant, you know --


ROMANS: -- not at all.

MANNO: No turnovers. This might have been the defense that could have gotten it done. But he's still in the game.

ROMANS: All right. Nice to see you -- thanks.

All right, here is today's fast-forward look ahead.

The Supreme Court will issue its first opinion of the term today. It is the court's first opinion since ending last term by overturning Roe v. Wade.

The IRS will accept federal income tax returns starting today, but you have until April 18 to file your return without penalty.

And the double-murder trial of disgraced former attorney Alex Murdaugh, accused of fatally shooting his wife and son -- that is set to begin today in South Carolina.

CNN's Randi Kaye has more.


ALEX MURDAUGH, ON TRIAL FOR DOUBLE-MURDER: I need the police and ambulance immediately. My wife and child have been shot badly.

RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alex Murdaugh says he called 911 after finding his wife and son bleeding at their hunting property in Islandton, South Carolina.

911 DISPATCHER: And what is your name?

MURDAUGH: My name is Alex Murdaugh.

KAYE (voice-over): That was June 7, 2021. Now, for the first time, we are learning more about how many times 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh and 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh were shot, and where.

This latest court filing by Murdaugh's defense attorneys includes an affidavit from a forensic expert hired by state law enforcement. The expert offers a disturbing picture of the murder scene.

He determined two gunshot blasts hit Paul Murdaugh. The first was to the chest. But the fatal shot to his shoulder and head was so violent that his brain was completely detached from his head, according to the expert.

The affidavit also includes pictures from the crime scene, which show the property's dog kennels where Paul Murdaugh was shot.

911 DISPATCHER: Are they breathing?

MURDAUGH: No, ma'am.

KAYE (voice-over): The affidavit also details how Maggie Murdaugh was shot five times with a rifle, including one gunshot to the back of her head and scalp.


While the sequence of the gunshots was not clear, the expert concluded that at least one of the shots was fired while she was on the ground -- holding herself up on her knees and her right hand with her shoulders and head down.

Also, court documents show blood spatter found on the t-shirt Alex Murdaugh was wearing the night of the murders could prove he was in close proximity to at least one of the victims when they were shot. And in the court affidavit filed this week, the state's forensic expert stated there appears to be transfer and spatter stains on the front of Murdaugh's t-shirt.

Murdaugh's lawyers have argued the blood got on his shirt when he touched the victims after finding them, and deny he was at the house when the murders occurred.

Still, prosecutors say he had a motive for allegedly killing them -- to hide his alleged financial crimes. Prosecutors claim Alex Murdaugh defrauded clients, coworkers, and family members of nearly $9 million.

CREIGHTON WATERS, SOUTH CAROLINA'S STATE GRAND JURY CHIEF PROSECUTOR: The day of reckoning was upon him and he was out of cards to play.

KAYE (voice-over): That alleged motive dates back to a February 2019 boat crash during with Paul Murdaugh was allegedly driving drunk. Nineteen-year-old Mallory Beach was killed in that crash. Because Alex Murdaugh owned the boat, her family filed a civil suit against him.

His financial records likely would have been revealed at a scheduled hearing in June 2021, but Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were killed a few days before, so the hearing was canceled, which is why prosecutors say he killed his wife and son.

WATERS: He's still trying to prevent who he really is from being outed.

KAYE (voice-over): Murdaugh's defense team has pushed back on the alleged motive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Murdaugh had handwritten out a financial statement for the purpose of that hearing. There's no doomsday reckoning in that regard.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN.


ROMANS: All right. That trial begins today.

Coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING," the search for answers after the shooting in Monterey Park. Our Don Lemon is there live for us.

And next, right here, the days of sharing your Netflix password are numbered.



ROMANS: All right, your Romans' Numeral this Monday morning, $386,300. That's the median home price last year. It's the highest on record.

Home prices surged last year more than 10 percent from the year before even as home sales had their weakest year since 2014. High prices and mortgage rates kept buyers out of the market, but economists expect sales will ramp up again as mortgage rates fall. Looking at markets around the world right now, European markets have

opened higher. They are up. Asian markets are closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

On Wall Street, stock index futures are barely mixed here. The Dow and the S&P look to try to bounce back after the first weekly declines of the new year. The tech-heavy Nasdaq finished higher, notching the third consecutive week of gains.

Bloomberg, this morning, is reporting Spotify could be the next big tech name to announce job cuts. The number of layoffs at the streaming service expected this week. Not immediately clear, but we have seen these big tech companies unwinding some of their super-aggressive hiring sprees of the last couple of years.

On inflation watch, gas prices holding steady overnight, now at $3.42 a gallon.

Up next this week, GDP numbers for the fourth quarter -- the first look there -- jobless claims, new housing data, and the PCE price index. That's the Fed's preferred gauge of inflation.

All right, mortgage rates falling to their lowest level since September as the economic data is showing inflation might be easing. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaging 6.15 percent last week, down from 6.33 the week before. Now, economists say the easing rates are boosting both homebuyer demand and homebuilder sentiment.

Here with me now is Bess Freedman, the CEO of Brown Harris Stevens, a real estate company with 3,000 agents in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Nice to see you this Monday morning.

BESS FREEDMAN, CEO, BROWN HARRIS STEVENS: Good morning, Christine. Nice to see you.

ROMANS: Let's start with mortgage rates.


ROMANS: So, there was -- they doubled. And then, they were above seven percent. And then, they've leveled off just above six percent.

What should people think about what's happening in mortgage rates right now?

FREEDMAN: You know, there is this spirit of optimism right now because, as you mentioned, they're the lowest they've been since September, so people are taking advantage of that. Applications are up, the re-fi's are up -- so that's a good thing -- and inflation is coming down.

But we are in a different environment. It is now what it was. In 2022, we saw a little bit of the adrenalin from '21, so it was a good market in the first --

ROMANS: Right. FREEDMAN: -- two quarters.

But I think now -- you know, people are still -- they're out there, they're buying. But I don't think it's over yet. I think we're in for some more choppy waters because the water has slowed.


FREEDMAN: The housing market has slowed despite the fact that we have rates coming down -- good news -- some optimism. But, you know, that changes. Mindset changes.

ROMANS: Let's remember 2021 was an epic year. Like, the best in the generation for the -- for the housing market.

FREEDMAN: Historically, we've never had a better year.

ROMANS: Right.

FREEDMAN: And so, now that's over. That FOMO environment is over and we're more guarded. And I think it's going to be a much more moderate environment as we move forward.

ROMANS: Where are you seeing this year's financing? I -- assuming people with adjustable rate mortgages are seeing higher rates, they have to refinance.

FREEDMAN: Yes, that's what's happening. I think the adjustable rates they're seeing -- that that's coming up soon, so they're going back in there and they're doing a re-fi. That's -- I spoke to my guy at Wells and he told me that's basically what's going on with the re-fi's right now.

And I think people are trying to feel it out a little bit. Because, as you know, markets are in cycles. The homebuying process, sellers -- all that has to continue. But right now, it's a different vibe than what it was.

ROMANS: What's happening in Manhattan? I mean, I know Manhattan is just one place, but a lot of you are up early on your treadmill wondering what's happening in Manhattan.

We saw, what, prices -- sales fell, prices fell. What's happening?


FREEDMAN: Yes, prices have started to come down a little bit. There is still ample inventory, which is very good. So people are out there.

But I looked at the numbers for the last quarter of '22 and they have slowed dramatically. And I think we're going to see that again in this first quarter. And maybe in the spring market, we get a little bit of a boost.

But it's been so great for so long that things have to sort of change a little bit. We have to get more moderate in our mindset. ROMANS: For those of -- for those -- I'm going to ask you quick -- you know, quick advice for the buyer. What's your advice for buyers this year?

FREEDMAN: I think buyers should get themselves ready. You know, get preapproved, lock in their rate, look out. There's opportunities out there. They can really negotiate because sellers are no longer in the driver's seat as they were. And so, they can really negotiate and get a good price.

But be prepared. Get your credit lined up. Make sure you have your mortgage ready. Look at a lot of properties. Have a great real estate agent.

ROMANS: Yes. And for sellers, your year was two years ago.


FREEDMAN: That's exactly right.

ROMANS: Bess Freedman, chief executive at Brown Harris Stevens. Thanks so much.

FREEDMAN: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

FREEDMAN: Thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right. Netflix gearing up to crack down on password sharing.


Clip from Netflix "WEDNESDAY."


ROMANS: If you use someone else's password to watch shows like "WEDNESDAY," brace for changes. Netflix plans to roll out paid password sharing toward the end of the first quarter. The company hasn't explained how it will enforce password sharing just yet or how much shared passwords will cost.

All right. Police have identified the gunman who killed 10 people in a California dance studio. CNN is on the scene as authorities investigate, ahead.

And the FBI finding more classified documents at President Biden's home in Delaware. What's in this batch, coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING."



ROMANS: All right, Monday morning -- our top of the morning for you. The top movies at the box office right now.


Clip from 20th Century Studios "Avatar: The Way of Water."


ROMANS: "Avatar: The Way of Water" is in its sixth-straight week at the top. It's now taken in $6 billion worldwide. Only five other movies, ever, have done more.


Clip from Universal Pictures "Puss In Boots: The Last Wish."


ROMANS: "Puss In Boots: The Last Wish" hanging in at number two, doing very well for a family film these days.


Clip from Universal Pictures "M3GAN."


ROMANS: Creepy "M3GAN" slid to third place. A sequel is already in the works. They plan to call it -- what else -- "M3GAN 2.0."

All right, friends, family, and loving fans gathering together to say goodbye to Lisa Marie Presley.


Choir singing "Amazing Grace" at Graceland memorial service for Lisa Marie Presley.


ROMANS: The memorial service for Elvis Presley's only daughter was held Sunday in front of the famed Graceland estate in Memphis.

Priscilla Presley eulogized her daughter, reading a poem written by one of her granddaughters.


PRISCILLA PRESLEY, MOTHER OF LISA MARIE PRESLEY: Now she is home where she always belonged, but my heart is missing her love. She knew that I loved her. I fear I'll never touch her but the old soul is always with me.


ROMANS: Other speakers at the service included former Memphis mayor, AC Wharton, the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, and Lisa Marie's manager, Jerry Schilling.

She is being laid to rest on the Graceland property next to her son, Benjamin.

All right. New details revealed about plans for the coronation of King Charles III. Buckingham Palace says it will be a three-day celebration. The coronation will be on Saturday, May 6. On Sunday, there will be a coronation 'Big Lunch' across the country, and a coronation concert. And Monday will be the "Big Help Out." The public will be invited to volunteer in their communities.

The palace has not specified which family members will appear on the balcony with Charles after the coronation in the wake of Prince Andrew's sex abuse allegations and Prince Harry's explosive memoir.

All right, more than 10 million people are under winter weather alerts this morning from North Carolina to Maine as a storm system moves across the northeast today.

Let's get to meteorologist Allison Chinchar. Much of New England has suffered below-normal snowfall, Allison, this season. Is this a welcome snow for the area?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think so, especially for folks who have been looking for a good ski weekend. They want to see all of this snow.

Right now, it's snowing in places like Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and even Portland, Maine. Still mostly rain, however, along the coastal regions. So, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. it is just rain, and it's likely going to stay that way for the Eastern Seaboard.

Again, most of that snow is really going to be focused over interior New England. However, Boston is likely to get that transition from rain into snow once we get a little bit later into the day and those temperatures do drop back. The heaviest snowfall, however, is going to be focused over areas of Maine as well as southern New Hampshire where six to eight inches, tops, is not out of the question.

Here is the thing, though. Even interior places that will get snow -- they need to play catch-up. For example, Worcester, Massachusetts -- they've had 10 inches so far, but that puts them almost 16 inches below what they normally would be this time of year. Boston, Albany, Hartford -- even D.C. -- all of them well below where they normally would be in terms of snowfall by this time of year.

Another area that desperately needs to see some snow is New York City. They have gone 318 days since the last time they had measurable snow. That's actually the fourth-longest consecutive set of days where they haven't had measurable snow. For those wondering, the record is 332 days. So it is very possible if we go all the way to February 5, we could potentially break that record. And they're not going to get any more snow today.

But here's the interesting thing, Christine. You actually have some southern cities that have picked up more snow than New York, including Atlanta, Nashville, and Memphis.