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American Morning

Deadly Twisters; Florida Wildfires; Security Breach?; Playground Attack?; Nun Slaying Trial; Addicted to Tanning

Aired May 10, 2006 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Criminal background checks on prom dates. Now some high school seniors are going to have to go to the dance alone.
And addicted to tanning. What makes some people obsessed about that golden glow?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: And searching for the sun can cost a pretty penny with gas prices high as they are. Tips for navigating that car trip, ahead, in our summer travel series, ahead, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning to you. I'm Miles O'Brien.

S. O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien. Welcome, everybody.

We begin this hour with some severe weather in Texas. At least three people were killed overnight in a series of tornadoes near Dallas. A tornado outbreak, as Chad's been reporting, is expected today. Severe Weather Expert Chad Myers, in fact at CNN center for us.

Hey, Chad. Good morning.


From Oklahoma City now right on down I-35, some strong weather. Also, weather now moving just to the east of Little Rock. We had storms through Nashville and Memphis. As we look ahead to today, it's going to be this red zone. All the way from the Ohio Valley, right on down to New Orleans, where the severe weather is going to develop. Ninety, Orlando today. A cool day in Boston. Rain there and 52; 64, New York. But there it is -- here it is. All the way from Indiana through Illinois, right through Paducah, Kentucky and down south into Mississippi and Alabama. That's the area that's under the gun for the most severe weather today.

As the cold air comes down from the north, 66 in Salt Lake City -- OK, maybe it's not cold. It's cool. But it's certainly different from Oklahoma City to Houston, almost 20 degrees. That difference is the line, is the cold front. And east of that cold front is where all the storms are going to fire this afternoon.

There were seven tornadoes yesterday. I mean, literally, today there could be 50. So we need to really pay attention this afternoon -- Soledad. S. O'BRIEN: All right. Thanks for watching it for us, Chad. Appreciate it.

MYERS: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Now, to the aftermath in Texas. Officials are now starting to go door to door, to try to assess the damage there.

Dan Ronan, of CNN Affiliate WFAA, reports from Westminster. That's about 50 miles north of Dallas.


DAN RONAN, WFAA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Westminster, Texas, authorities are saying that three people are dead and as many as seven others may be injured after one and possibly two tornadoes hop-scotched through this community some 50 miles northeast of Dallas.

This all started about 10:30 last night. Tornado warnings had been issued and sirens began to go off. And about 2:00 o'clock this morning, authorities discovered that two people, an elderly couple believed to be in their 70s and a teenage boy, 14, was the other third victim there.

Authorities are now waiting for first light so they can begin to go in and assess the damage and figure out just how many homes were demolished with this killer storm.

In Westminster, Texas, Dan Ronan, for CNN.


M. O'BRIEN: To Florida now. A state of emergency there this morning because of wild fires. Here's the latest for you -- 103 fires burning as we speak, about 25,000 acres scorched so far. The smoke from those fires blamed for the deaths of four people. They were killed in car accidents when the smoke obscured their vision.

The fires stretch from the West Coast to the East Coast of the state, from near Tampa all the way across to Daytona Beach and even down south toward Miami. Fifty of the fires are being watched closely by firefighters as we speak.

Add to all of that, the heavy smoke is causing a lot of traffic nightmares. A 12-mile stretch of interstate 95 remains closed this morning in Volusia County and east central Florida. The heavily traveled highway should be opened, however, in another hour -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: President Bush wraps up a swing through Florida today. He's talking to senior citizens about Medicare. And in what might be sort of an embarrassing side note, it appears that just about every detail of the president's Florida trip turned up in a pile of trash. According to a report that's coming to us from Affiliate WUSA, a sanitation worker discovered the ditched documents.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw locations and names and places where the president's supposed to be on this day. And I knew it was kind of important. It shouldn't have been in the trash at whole like this.


S. O'BRIEN: Well, he knew it shouldn't be in the trash. Let's see what the White House thinks about that.

White House Correspondent Elaine Quijano joins us this morning.

Hey, Elaine. Good morning.

What was ditched apparently seems very, very specific. I mean, even more specific than what normally the press would have access to, right?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And you know, Soledad, we have to say, of course, CNN does not have a copy of these documents. We haven't been able to independently verify or even speak to the sanitation worker. This is coming from our affiliate WUSA.

The White House, as we know, does put out a public schedule every day. And that lists the public events for the president, if he's leaving the White House, what time he's scheduled to leave and whether or not there's a briefing for that day.

It's certainly does not approach the level of detail that is outlined in these documents. So we should mention that the media does in fact get some additional details, but it does not approach nearly the level of detail that was perhaps alluded to in the story by WUSA.

Now, if that story in fact does turn out to be true, it could, of course, represent a major breach. But again, CNN has not independently verified those documents or even seen them. So, we're asking a lot of questions here. We'll hope to get some more answers for you -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Elaine, thanks very much.

Elaine Quijano, with the White House for us this morning -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Shock in St. Louis this morning. It appears a little girl, a second grader, was sexually assaulted on a playground during recess. Twelve boys, age 6 to 8 are suspended for the rest of the school year for the alleged attack. One teacher has been fired, another on leave without pay.

CNN's Jonathan Freed, live now, outside the school.

Jonathan, just horrifying story. JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Miles. Good morning. This is said to have happened, according to the reports that we are hearing, on Friday afternoon around 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon or so, after lunch during a recess period.

What we're told happened is that one child, who was out in the schoolyard, had to bring to the attention of the adults who were there supervising, that there was a huddle of boys around an 8-year-old girl, who was a second-grader and that's when all of this came to the attention of the adults here.

Now, we're talking about four 8-year-old boys, seven 7-year-olds and one 6-year-old, Miles.

Now, let's listen now to a woman who is a mother of a child who goes to this school, as well as to Creg Williams, who is the superintendent of schools here in St. Louis.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If two teachers were out here on grounds, I feel like my kids are not safe anywhere with the teachers now.

SUPT. CREG WILLIAMS, ST. LOUIS PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Obviously, we are distraught that this has happened and it's an unfortunate thing that has happened in this school.


FREED: Now, Miles it's important to point out that at this point it is only an alleged sexual assault. It is not yet clear exactly what happened here on the playground of this school on Friday afternoon -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Jonathan, what do we know about this little girl?

FREED: We know so far that she is OK. That is what the superintendent of schools said yesterday to the media here, that she is OK, physically. Their concern, of course, is for her emotional wellbeing. Regardless of the extent to what happened directly to her, something did clearly happen here and they're very concerned for her emotionally.

M. O'BRIEN: Jonathan Freed in St. Louis, thank you very much.

Coming up later on AMERICAN MORNING, we'll get more from the School Superintendent Creg Williams. He'll join us live 9:00 a.m., Eastern, a little less than an hour from now -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: In just about an hour from now, closing arguments are expected to begin in that disturbing murder trial. A priest stands accused of stabbing and choking a nun about 26 years ago.

Let's get right to Keith Oppenheim. He' live with the story from Toledo, Ohio.

Hey, Keith. Good morning.

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad. That's right, deliberations should begin this afternoon.

And really, no one who's been watching this case is making any grand predictions as to how this case might go.

And for the jury, a lot is on the line. They have to decide whether a priest should go free or spend the rest of his life in prison.


OPPENHEIM (voice-over): During the nearly three weeks of testimony, Father Gerald Robinson sat silently at the defense table as the prosecution portrayed him as a murderer.

DEAN MANDROS, LEAD PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Is that a fair and accurate representation or...

OPPENHEIM: Prosecutors placed a mannequin on the floor to represent the 26-year-old crime scene. On April 5th, 1980, Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was found dead in the chapel at Toledo's Mercy Hospital. She had been strangled and stabbed multiple times.

MANDROS: He stabbed her over the heart nine times, nine piercings of her flesh in the shape of an upside down cross.

OPPENHEIM: At the time, Father Robinson was questioned, but not charged. Not until 2004, when cold case investigators took another look at the evidence. Prosecutors claim this was a ritual killing committed by someone with inside knowledge.

REV. JEFFREY GROB, ARCHDIOCESE OF CHICAGO: It's a mockery, I mean, the inverted cross on the person is a mockery to God.

OPPENHEIM: The State presented two nuns who said they saw the priest near the chapel at the time the crime took place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's Father Robinson.

OPPENHEIM: Prosecutors say this dagger shaped letter opener was the murder weapon and that it belonged to Father Robinson.

Dr. Henry Lee, a forensics expert, well known from the O.J. Simpson trial, said blood stains on an altar cloth resembled the pattern of the alleged weapon.

DR. HENRY LEE, FORENSICS EXPERT: I cannot come here to tell you this pattern is produced exactly by this. I can only say similar to.

OPPENHEIM: What prosecutors lacked in this case was any DNA evidence directly linking the priest to the victim.

Father Robinson says he is not guilty and defense attorneys have tried to cast doubt on the prosecution's evidence. Here, a police officer suggests Sister Pahl was upset with someone, but he couldn't say for sure that it was Father Robinson.

ALAN KONOP, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You said she was upset that they had shortened the Friday services. You don't know who that person is, do you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got a good idea who they are.

KONOP: Do you know specifically who that person is?


KONOP: Did she ever tell you who that person was?


KONOP: Never.

OPPENHEIM: David Yonke, a local reporter who is writing a book on this case says it's hard to predict what the jurors might do.

DAVID YONKE, REPORTER, TOLEDO BLADE: They could feel like they believe the priest did it, but that they just weren't, you know, 99.9 percent sure and didn't want to send this 68-year-old priest to prison for the rest of his life.


OPPENHEIM: Soledad, as far as we can tell, this is a unique case, the only time that a priest in the U.S. has been charged with murdering a nun. And if convicted, Father Robinson could be sentenced immediately to a mandatory life sentence -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Give me a glimpse of the motive in this case. I mean, why would -- what do prosecutors say is the why behind it?

OPPENHEIM: That's the big unanswered question in this case. Prosecutors legally have not been required to present a motive, and they have not. Keep in mind, this is a case that's 26 years old.

They have talked about ritual killing, but that doesn't really explain why a nun was murdered. So, having said that, that could be a problem for this jury if they don't really have an explanation as to why this happened.

S. O'BRIEN: I can imagine another problem -- not necessarily for the jury, but within the jury, would be if you have Catholics seated on the jury. Right? I mean, how are they dealing with that?

OPPENHEIM: Well, that's correct. There are a number of Christians on this jury, four Catholics by our count on this jury. And the significance of that is that in this area, where many people have expressed reservations about convicting a priest of murder, the question is, will just one of them decide that they can't go with that, they continue convict a priest? S. O'BRIEN: All good questions. Keith Oppenheim for us this morning. Kind of a -- really a bizarre story. Thanks, Keith -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Straight ahead on the program, an update on that brutal attack we told you about in Houston a few weeks ago. A teen is still clinging for his life after a terrible attack.

Police say his alleged attackers, seen there, beat him after he kissed a girl at a party. But the victim's family says, no, it was a hate crime.

We'll have details for you ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: A follow up now on a story we first told you, back a couple weeks ago. That Texas teenager who was the victim of a brutal attack, well, he's still unconscious. He's in a Houston area hospital. It's been more than two weeks since the attack at a house party.

Police say the 17-year-old victim was brutally beaten and sodomized by two young men after he tried to kiss a younger girl. The two teenagers who are suspects in the attack have been charged with aggravated sexual assault.

In Houston, this morning, Attorney Carlos Leon is representing the victim's family members. He's joined by two relatives of the young victim. We're not going to identify these family members. They've asked us not to name them.

We appreciate you joining us this morning. We appreciate your time.

I want to begin with the aunt, is how I'm going to refer to you if that's OK for the purposes of this interview. Tell me about the boy's condition. How's he doing today?

AUNT OF VICTIM: He's still listed in critical condition. He's getting better day by day, but unconscious.

S. O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question, and to the gentlemen, I know you're married a cousin, so we'll call you a cousin, as well, if I may.


S. O'BRIEN: What are the doctors telling you about how this young man is going to do? His prognosis? Does it look like he'll pull through? There was a time when they thought he would not survive.

COUSIN TO VICTIM: You know, I mean, we -- we ourselves, we really don't know. I mean, you know, he is improving slightly. And basically, you know, we just want to -- we're just praying that he gets better.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, gosh.


S. O'BRIEN: The details of this story absolutely are horrible.

Mr. Leon, let me ask you a question about the charges. The prosecutors have not charged the suspects in the case with a hate crime. Why not?

CARLOS LEON, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY: Well, that's -- you know, that's one of the issues that's coming up in this case. I mean, I think we're all clear that this was a hate crime. But unfortunately, the way the federal and state hate crime laws currently exist, if a hate crime takes place on private property, it's not punishable with the current hate crime laws. That's something that a lot of legislators or a lot of council people here in Houston, and I think now on a federal level, are looking into. That's something that's got to change.

S. O'BRIEN: My understanding is that under the Texas law, the hate crime law, that you would -- it wouldn't increase the penalty, it would only increase the burden of proof for the prosecutors and that's my understanding of why they're sort of backing away from charging these guys with a hate crime.

Is it important to you? I mean, do you feel that there's something critical about them being charged with a hate crime?

LEON: Well, certainly. I mean, I think that we have to send a message to the folks like these two assailants, that, you know, you commit a hate crime, there's going to be a greater punishment. And quite frankly, the prosecutors, in their defense, they're not strained from charging him with a hate crime because it's going to raise their burden, but it's also because it just does not fit. It happened on private property, it happened in a private residence, and therefore, the way the current law exists, it doesn't fall under the hate crime statute.

S. O'BRIEN: Really? So it just can't be a hate crime if it happens at a private residence?

LEON: That is correct.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow, wow. Let me ask you a question about the civil suit that you're going to go ahead with. What exactly do you want out of the civil suit?

LEON: Well, you know, this kind of a tragic situation is going to cause a lot of problems for not only the victim, but for the family. We're assuming and we're hoping and we're praying that he's going to make it through this. If he does, he's going to have a long road physically and emotionally to get back to where he was. So, from a civil perspective, we're going to seek the compensation that he deserves from the wrongdoers in this case, and see what we can do for him.

S. O'BRIEN: Back to our family members, to the aunt again, if I can ask you a question about the suspects in the case. We've been showing their pictures. They're known to police, as we say, meaning that they've had sort of records, you know. In once case, a pretty long record. What would you like to see happen to these men?

AUNT TO VICTIM: I would love to see they would get the worst punishment that they could possibly get. They deserve every bit of it because my nephew didn't deserve anything that he got from them. So I just hope that they penalize them to the worst degree.

S. O'BRIEN: Mr. Leon, what is the worst punishment that they face right now? What could happen to these young guys?

LEON: Well, depending on, you know, they're still waiting to see what's going to happen to the victim. I mean, that could change the penalty. Clearly, if he were to pass away, that would aggravate the situation. But, life in prison, I mean there's a variety of maximum penalties that can be sought after by the prosecutors.

S. O'BRIEN: Back to the cousin, a final question for you, if I may. You've been getting lots of support online. And, you know, one of the details that I thought was just horrific in this case was, it seems like this young man was ignored, to a large degree, by a lot of people over a long time. After the attack, are you finding some solace and some, I guess, you know, upside in all of the support you're getting now from friends online?

COUSIN OF VICTIM: You know, I mean, it's just -- I mean, the overwhelming support that we've gotten from everyone. I mean, I'm talking about everyone. It's been -- it's been just great. People have -- have called and -- I mean, all his friends are always in the hospital. They've just shown so much love. And if it wasn't for that, I don't know what the family would have been going through right now. I just want to thank everyone, really, from the bottom of the family's hearts, I really want to thank everyone.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, thanks for talking with us this morning. I know that it's sort of hard to keep your privacy in cases like this, but we really appreciate your insight, family members joining us this morning and also Lawyer Carlos Leon, who is the attorney for the victim's family members. Thanks for being with us.

LEON: Thank you.


AUNT TO VICTIM: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up on the program, a nun is dead. A priest accused of a ritualistic murder. And the prosecution has a circumstantial case 26 years later. What might the jury be thinking now? We'll ask someone who has watched the case unfold, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: All over the country, tanning salons have become all the rage. There is growing concern, though, that they're helping to contribute to a skin cancer epidemic in this country.

Well now, researchers are finding that the quest for a bronze look might actually be an addiction.

CNN's John Zarrella has our story.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What is it? What kind of spell does a broiling sun hold over some people? What makes people like Vince and Ursula Celeste (ph) soak it in for hours at a time?

URSULA CELESTE (ph): It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like there's nothing that can go wrong.

VINCE CELESTE (ph): I always felt better about myself.

ZARRELLA: And Bob Lubart (ph)?

BOB LUBART (ph): The heat just feels nurturing.

ZARRELLA: Three days a week, he's in a tanning bed. Indoor tanning is one of the nation's fastest growing industries -- $5 billion a year. A good tan seems synonymous with good health.

Studies found the number of people using tanning salons is increasing. And among 16-year olds to 18-year-olds, 30 percent to 40 percent are tanning booth regulars.

(On camera): There may be a reason those sun worshipers simply can't get enough. Doctors here at Wake Forest University's Tanning Research Center say frequent tanners may, in fact, be addicted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They decided -- they couldn't tell the two beds apart?


ZARRELLA: Doctors Steve Feldman and Mandeep Kaur, dermatologists at Wake Forest, knew that skin cells exposed to ultraviolet light appear to produce endorphins, the human body's natural feel good molecules, kind of like narcotics. Suddenly, a light bulb went off.

DR. STEVE FELDMAN, WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY: Whoa! That explains why people go to the beach. You know? That explains why tanning is an epidemic in America.

ZARRELLA: To prove people can be addicted to tanning, two tanning beds were set up in this room at the tanning center. Tara Burton, and 11 other frequent tanners, people who tanned more than eight times a month, were selected. What they didn't know was that the UV light was being blocked in one bed.

FELDMAN: What we did, was we put people in both beds on Monday, both beds on Wednesday and then said to them on Friday, get in whichever bed you want.

DR. MANDEEP KAUR, WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY: Eleven out of 12 ended up preferring the UV bed.

ZARRELLA: Not knowing that it was the UV bed?

KAUR: Not knowing that it was the UV bed.

ZARRELLA: Then, eight frequent tanners and eight infrequent tanners were selected. Again, Tara Burton participated.

KAUR: So our next step was, how about if we block those feel good receptors, the endorphins, and see what happens to these people.

ZARRELLA: The test subjects were given a drug, a narcotic blocker, to see if it interrupted their ability to distinguish between the two beds.

FELDMAN: We had no idea people could get sick. When you think about it, it makes sense.

ZARRELLA: Four of the eight frequent tanners suffered withdrawal-like symptoms, including Tara Burton.

TARA BURTON, STUDY VOLUNTEER: I took the drug, and on the first -- I had to drop out on the first time that I tanned. I had jitteriness, I had nausea.

ZARRELLA: None of the infrequent tanners suffered any reaction, further convincing the doctors that frequent tanning is addictive and may lead to a dramatic increase in skin cancer.

(on camera): If you know tanning is bad for you, Tara, how come you do it?

BURTON: Well, from what I know of addicts, which I may be one...

ZARRELLA: Apparently you are.

BURTON: Apparently I'm an addict and I didn't know it, they're in denial.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): The dermatologists worry that as more and more people seek out that bronzed is beautiful look, many will, like Tara Burton, become addicted to tanning. Getting high on sunshine and not even know it.

John Zarrella, CNN, Winston Salem, North Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE) S. O'BRIEN: John's story first aired on "PAULA ZAHN NOW." You can catch Paula weeknights at 8:00 p.m., Eastern -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, our special series on surviving summer travel. If you're packing for a summer road trip, think about limiting the luggage or maybe leaving a kid behind. We'll tell you why dumping the roof rack luggage carrier will save you a suitcase full of cash.

Plus, banned near Boston. Some prom dates get nixed by a school that has put a tight ring of security around the end of school dance. We'll tell you why some dates got the boot, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Good morning to you. I'm Miles O'Brien.

S. O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien. Let's get right to a look at our top stories this morning. Carol Costello has that. She's in the newsroom. Hey, Carol. Good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Good morning to all of you. People in parts of northern Texas waking up to a whole lot of damage this morning caused by those severe storms. At least three people killed after deadly tornadoes swept through the area last night. These pictures from the scene. You can see they just show the buildings squashed. Nothing left but debris and the foundation in some cases.

In Florida, massive wildfires causing problems there. More than 100 wild fires are burning across the state right now. In Sun City near Tampa, 30 homes evacuated after a power line touched a dead tree. The smoke from the fire is forcing authorities to shut down one of Florida's busiest highways. It is due to reopen in the next hour.

We could hear directly from Daniel Biechele at his sentencing hearing today. Biechele is the former band manager whose fireworks sparked the fire in Rhode Island. One hundred people killed in that fire. Biechele faces up to 10 years in prison.

And the Freedom of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world is now in New York. In fact, I passed it on my way to work. It is huge. That is live picture. Look at that. This massive cruise liner left England last week in its first transatlantic crossing, the Freedom of the Seas, due to be formally dedicated on Friday right near the Statue of Liberty.

That's a look at the headlines this morning. Back to you.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Carol, thanks a lot.

Much more on the aftermath of those tornadoes in Texas. We are following the story all morning for you. We've got some new pictures that are just coming into CNN and we also want to bring in severe weather expert Chad Myers to help us figure out what we're looking at. Hey, Chad, good morning. CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Soledad. Back you up to 8:30 last night, a couple of tornadoes in Oklahoma. Nothing in north Texas. Watch me move this ahead just a couple of hours. There's that one -- seems like a pretty small cell to the northeast of Dallas. But here's what that one cell did. Pictures coming in from our affiliate, some aerials coming in and this is what the storm did from WFAA.

Don't know what that building was. We don't know a mobile home or real home, but the entire area around it, is surrounded by frame homes. Homes with two by fours and sticks and bricks and assuming this is damage from a structurally - we call it a stick built home. We'll have to see as the inspectors get there how much damage was really there but what seems like a brick chimney on top of what would have been a brick fireplace. That is the only part of the home still standing. Talking about F-3, possibly F-4 damage.

It's not really a wind speed scale so to speak. An F-1 will knock off a roof. An F-2 takes off a roof and move it around. An F-3 will knock down walls. An F-4 will actually knocks down most of the walls, only maybe leaving the kitchen or the bathroom standing and a F-5 takes all the walls away where you can't even find the walls. Kind of how the damage goes and some of this damage, I tell you what, it does absolutely look like an F-3 or an F-4 damage, but of course, it all depends if you destroy a chicken coop that's made of tin and a couple of nails, that damage can look like F-4 damage even in a F-1 so that's why they have to go out there and see the structure before the tornado came. Soledad?

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Chad. Thanks a lot. Pretty remarkable pictures.


M. O'BRIEN: Closing arguments today, excuse me, in Toledo at an unprecedented trial. An at least stands accused in the ritualistic murder of a nun 26 years ago. The prosecution has offered up a circumstantial case. And so far, no motive. So a lot is riding on what the jury hears today. Beth Karas is the court TV News correspondent who has been there all along. She joins us now from Toledo. Beth, good to have you with us.


M. O'BRIEN: A lot of people wondering why now? Why 26 years later in this is all coming to trial.

KARAS: Well, it's good question. He was arrested 24 years after and that's because a woman had come forward in 2003 to the Toledo diocese saying she wanted to be compensated for all her psychological treatment over the years because of the sexual abuse suffered at the hands of several priests here in the Toledo area. Including Father Robinson. Now, her allegations have not been substantiated by did police. But the police did take another look at Robinson because they recognized the name from so many years earlier, from 1980 and they did new forensic testing, they examined an altar cloth with blood on it found near her body with an item they always thought was the murder weapon.

A very distinctive letter opener. They found in Father Robinson's possession shortly after the crime. He was always a suspect but with new forensic testing, they're able to put together a stronger circumstantial case. The prosecutor back then in 1980 didn't want do go forward.

M. O'BRIEN: But this circumstantial case may be stronger and not the kind of slam bunk dunk that a "CSI" watcher would interpret it to be. In other words, no smoking gun DNA link here, right?

KARAS: Right. In fact, the little DNA she had on her indicates it's from a male and not Father Robinson. But it's a tiny amount and she worked in an environment, in a hospital, she was a nurse, she was around men as well as women and DNA can be transferred in any number of ways. But both sides have an argument to make today regarding the DNA evidence.

But there is other stuff, Father Robinson told the police about, hmm, two weeks after the crime he talked to them and he said that the real murderer confessed to him and the same conversation he recanted that, he admitted lying. There's other circumstantial evidence besides the forensics that seems to help the prosecution.

M. O'BRIEN: That's interesting about the confession if in fact he stuck to that story, he supposed to not reveal that, I guess. But tell me about this crime. Sister Margaret Paul, who was 71 years old at the time, stabbed in the pattern of a cross upside down on her body. Nine stab wounds and sort of a ritualistic - it connotes kind of a ritualistic killing. What's that all about? What is the prosecution said about that?

KARAS: It's definitely the prosecution's position it was ritualistic. They didn't go so far as to say it is a black mass or Satanic although maybe they could have. What they did was they put an expert from the Chicago archdiocese on. He is an assistant to the exorcist at the Chicago archdiocese and he talked about Catholic ritual and the significance of this nun being killed in the sacristy, the room next to the altar on Easter weekend, it was Holy Saturday and the Eucharist was being held in that sacristy where she was. It was the holiest of places that weekend. He put her, the killer strangled her and didn't kill her from the strangulation but disabled her, laid her on the ground on the floor. Put an altar cloth on her. Stabbed her nine times in the heart in the shape of an inverted cloth and took the altar cloth off and stabbed her 22 times more.

Now according to this expert said that was mockery of Catholicism and the rituals of the church to do it in that place on that day the shape of an inverted cross. That's Satanic. But the prosecution is not stepping over that line and talking Satanic.

M. O'BRIEN: It's interesting to put that forth and then not offer up a motive. There has been no statement from the prosecution about a specific motive. And I wonder what the jury is thinking right now. KARAS: Well, that is a good question. The prosecutor did voir dire, in jury selection, the jury about not having to prove motive. It's not an element of crime, it's not a burden on the prosecution but of course a jury wants to know motive. All they know is that Sister Margaret Ann, the victim, was upset because of Good Friday services conducted the day before by the priests. The services were cut short presumably by Robinson and the witness who testified to that didn't say Robinson's name but that is not a motive for murder. You're left to speculate they may have had a longstanding dislike of each other. She had a very dominant personality according to Father Robinson. That's what he told the police.

M. O'BRIEN`: All right. Interesting. We didn't hear from him on the stand. So we'll just have to leave it to the attorneys today. Beth Karas who is with Court TV, she is watching that trial, thanks for your insights.

KARAS: My pleasure.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad?

S. O'BRIEN: Bizarre case, isn't it?

M. O'BRIEN: Wow, yeah.

S. O'BRIEN: Something else that could end up in kind of a big legal mess. It's happening on Massachusetts' Cape Cod and it's about the senior prom. It could be tough to get into the senior prom at Dennis Yarmouth High School if you don't attend classes there. The school system's requiring criminal background checks for non-students who are going to the prom on Saturday. At least six students who are planning to attend found that in fact their dates were denied. Tanya Dockray is honor student at the school, one of those whose date is banned. Her mom is, Angie Dockray, is with us this morning from Boston, as well. Ladies, thanks for talking with us. Appreciate it. Tanya, let's begin with you.


S. O'BRIEN: So did you know that the school was doing to do a background check before prom season really began?

T. DOCKRAY: No, I did not. I didn't know anything about Corey (ph) checks or anything like that. I thought they would approve it and, you know, let me go.

S. O'BRIEN: So there was a form you had to fill out. When did they give you the form? What did the forms say?

T. DOCKRAY: I pretty much got it a couple of weeks ago. They just stated, you know, how the behavior of the guests is going to be. Pretty much, you know, don't make a mess of things. There's going to be cops around. Have a good time, of course. But, yeah, just really basic things, nothing mentioned about a criminal background check or anything like that.

S. O'BRIEN : OK. So it didn't have anything on the background check.


S. O'BRIEN: When did you discover that, in fact, your boyfriend didn't pass the background check?

T. DOCKRAY: I found that out on Thursday night.

S. O'BRIEN: What was your reaction? Did you know that, in fact, he had a record? He had been arrested for possession of marijuana?

T. DOCKRAY: I did know that. But I didn't think it was such a big deal. Because it was so long ago. He wasn't dealing it or anything and they just - he just had probation and there wasn't much to it.

S. O'BRIEN: Angie, when Tanya came to you saying looks like I am not going to be going to the prom after all, here's why. What was your reaction?

ANGIE DOCKRAY, TANYA'S MOTHER: She called me at work very upset. And what I did, I went and picked her up from work. I didn't want her to drive home so upset. I went right into the work and approached the principal who really declined to discuss it in any detail and I just asked for the policy which there was none. And then I contacted ...

S. O'BRIEN: When you asked for that, I'm sorry to interrupt you, Angie. When you said listen, just explain to me what the school's policy is, what did he say?

A. DOCKRAY: He handed me the student handbook. Where -- which stated one sentence that the school basically makes their own decision who goes to the prom. That is about it.

S. O'BRIEN: Now, here -- your boyfriend, Tanya, went to the junior prom, right? Was there a background check done then?

T. DOCKRAY: No. There was not.

S. O'BRIEN: Did you have to sign a form or fill out a waiver or anything then?

T. DOCKRAY: It was pretty much the same form. That's why I didn't think it was such a big deal this week but, yeah. There was no -- there was no Corey check, no criminal background whatsoever.

S. O'BRIEN: Did anything happen at the school between last year's junior prom and this year's senior prom that would make the school sort of change their policy that you can think of?

T. DOCKRAY: I can't think of anything, really. Maybe minor things. But I'm not even sure of that either.

S. O'BRIEN: Angie, there's a theory as a mom to say, listen, you have got a kid who is maybe a great kid now but he had a problem, a little run-in with the law, why not ban him, why not keep him out? A. DOCKRAY: Everybody deserves a second chance. He got in trouble for that. He paid for it and that's over with. He didn't get into any trouble after that. He turned his life around and he's -- he's a very nice man and -- I think they need to individualize it a little bit more.

S. O'BRIEN: Tanya, how much money have you put out? You got the dress, I know, and I saw some jewelry and some video tape and you know -- I know you got the ticket. How much have you spent?

T. DOCKRAY: Altogether we spent like around $700. For the tux and dress and everything.

S. O'BRIEN: You going or not?

T. DOCKRAY: It's pretty hard to say. I mean, my assistant principal said I can always go. But going alone is not the same. It really isn't.

S. O'BRIEN: Angie Dockray and Tanya Dockray, let us know what you decide to do Tanya, I'm interested.

T. DOCKRAY: Definitely.

S. O'BRIEN: I'm interested in following the story, certainly. The school, we should mention, released this statement. Let's pop that up for everybody if we can. At no time, that's what the statement says, At no - "At this time," excuse me, "no students from the Dennis Yarmouth Regional High School have been prohibited from attending the event, although the school rules allow the administration to deny access to any guest. The Dennis Yarmouth School District and both police departments are reviewing their respective policies and procedures to ensure compliance and consistency with state regulations."

That's coming from the school superintenden, Carol Woodbury. Thanks, ladies. Appreciate your time this morning. Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: Andy Serwer has dropped by. Hello, Andy.

ANDY SERWER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have. Hello, you guys. A couple of food stories coming up. First of all, Krispy Kreme goes where no doughnut has gone before.

Plus, a new kind of chewing gum that only Willie Wonka would truly appreciate. We'll tell you about that coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Andy Serwer is here to talk about K squared, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and he comes empty handed and tempted to just say see ya. I mean really. But go ahead.

SERWER: Thank you. Just this once. I think everyone knows what a Krispy Kreme doughnut looks like and tastes like. M. O'BRIEN: I know, I'm looking for the donut swag, a little donut swag.

SERWER: You just want to -- just hungry. All right. Interesting story here. A lot of Americans are very concerned about our relations and how we are perceived in the Middle East. Years of diplomacy failed to change that. And in fact, some say it's been getting worst over the last couple of years but now one company in just one move will change all of that because Krispy Kreme doughnuts are coming the Middle East and so how we're perceived is sure to change radically. Let's just put it that way. How could it not?

The first donut shop in the Middle East, Krispy Kreme doughnut shop will open in Kuwait this fall. Followed by similar shops in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In fact, 100 of the stores will be opened in the region over the next several years.

M. O'BRIEN: Doughnut diplomacy.


M. O'BRIEN: Right there ...

SERWER: What do you think?

M. O'BRIEN: I think this could bridge the gap.

SERWER: Now we like America.

M. O'BRIEN: Suddenly.

SERWER: Right?

M. O'BRIEN: Feeling like America is a sweet place.


M. O'BRIEN: If you know what I mean.

SERWER: I do know what you mean. Now let's move on into other fine foods. Chewing gum. Cadbury Schwepps, the giant food company is introducing a new type of gum called Stride and what makes Stride so special, there's Stride, we have a wonderful picture of it, is that according to the makers of Stride, it is a ridiculously long lasting chewing gum.

M. O'BRIEN: Days?

SERWER: They won't say it. Quantify it.

M. O'BRIEN: Just ridiculous.

SERWER: But doesn't it sound like something out of Willie Wonka? Gobstoppers that went on forever and the ridiculously long kind of reminds me of Steve Jobs with insanely great. When you start to use the adverbs, you have got to wonder. But anyway, they are spending $50 million rolling this out, competing with Wrigley's.

M. O'BRIEN: So if the gum lasts beyond your ability to chew it, you just behind your ear.

SERWER: That's what I always do anyway.

M. O'BRIEN: Have it there available, right?

All right, thank you Andy Serwer.

SERWER: You're welcome.

M. O'BRIEN: You hitting the road this summer?

SERWER: Yes. I am.

M. O'BRIEN: You getting a second mortgage to pay for it?

SERWER: Yeah. For my gas.

M. O'BRIEN: We have some other options for you short of the second mortgage. We'll have some good ideas on how you can make it all the more affordable like have you thought about just leaving the SUV behind?

And now sing it with me, folks. "You take the good, you take the bad. You take them both and there you have the facts of life."


M. O'BRIEN: The facts of life. On DVD. Facts fans, you need to stay tuned. Jo and Blair are in the house and that's a fact. Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Our surviving summer travel series continue this is morning. We decided to take a look at how gas prices do as you do a road trip across the country and so we put it to the test with Brad Proctor, he joins us this morning from Nice to see you brad, thanks for being with us this morning.


S. O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question. You went from Ohio to New York. We have a map of your trek. It's about 642 miles. A total of $104. Is what you spent filling up. How many times did you have to fill up?

PROCTOR: Three times to fill up on the trip.

S. O'BRIEN: Are you surprised by that number? Did you think it was lower than $142 or more than $142?

PROCTOR: I figured it would be less than $142 and, you know, just unfortunately with the prices going up the way they have, it is going to cost more to travel.

S. O'BRIEN: High price was paid in New York, where you paid $3.25?

PROCTOR: $3.25. Yeah.

S. O'BRIEN: We're just being gouged, aren't we? Tragic. Low price was where?

PROCTOR: $2.64 in Cambridge, Ohio.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh. That's a good ...

PROCTOR: Big gap between the highs and lows in what we paid.

S. O'BRIEN: Not worth it for me to drive to Ohio to fill up my tank.


S. O'BRIEN: You have got some great tips and I want to get to them for people who are thinking about hitting the road for their vacation. First you say inflate your tires. Realistically, is that going to save me money?

PROCTOR: For every pound under your tires are you save one percent if you bring it back up. So if you are five pounds under the recommended, save five percent if you keep it filled up.

S. O'BRIEN: Consolidate trips another one of your tips. What do you mean by that?

PROCTOR: Well, you know, use our Web site. Find a great place around the neighborhood where it's cheap and then try to consolidate all your trips. Try to get your gas, your groceries and maybe have dinner at the same place and then it might be worth driving a few extra miles out of your way to get the cheap gas.

S. O'BRIEN: More advice before you begin your trip, you say don't warm up the car. Usually people go out there, warm it up the car for a little bit. Get the engine warmed up. Why is that a bad idea?

PROCTOR: Absolutely. Modern cars today do not require a warm up for gasoline engine.

S. O'BRIEN: Are you burning a lot of fuel, though, when you do that?

PROCTOR: You do. Yeah. You actually burn extra fuel you would never have to. Just start it and go.

S. O'BRIEN: Lose the roof rack because of drag, right? Slowing you down.

PROCTOR: Huge. On a holiday weekend, people put those roof racks up there. Fifteen percent penalty can happen because you have that car top carrier.

S. O'BRIEN: Really? That much? See, this is real money you're saving. Not just sort of pennies here and there.

PROCTOR: That's correct.

S. O'BRIEN: And then finally, you say squeeze the family in. That's like this.

PROCTOR: Pack them in tighter.

S. O'BRIEN: Really?

PROCTOR: To, you know, just get as much stuff inside the car and make sure you don't put anything out and of course keep the weight as low as possible in the car. Don't bring the extra sandbags or whatever with you that you had in the winter.

S. O'BRIEN: Everybody limited to one suitcase. That's it. During the trip, here's some of your advice. You say plan your gas purchases along the way. Do you literally mean map it out? And how do you do that?

PROCTOR: One of the things you can use in our Web site,, we have a new mobile feature, too now. Go to our Web page and you can click on the mobile link and tracks the highway gas prices as you come along. It's a fantastic system and it's free of charge right now. So, that's a great way. Try to avoid the tollways. If you're captive on a tollway ...

S. O'BRIEN: Yeah, I know that.

PROCTOR: Yeah. The price is always up. Try to look if you get off at an exit, look at a couple of stations. Just some simple common sense.

S. O'BRIEN: And you say buy early or buy late. Why? Why does sort of the temperature in the day matter?

PROCTOR: You want to buy at the coolest times of the day. Because the way the gas pumps work, doesn't work on volume, works on density and the cooler things are, the less dense the gasoline is so you get more gasoline with that capability.

S. O'BRIEN: Again, are we talking a penny here or there or we talking ...

PROCTOR: Yeah. Just -- you know, maybe a penny extra every gallon that comes out of the tank. But every penny counts today.

S. O'BRIEN: What is the best advice overall, do you think, for people to decide to fly or drive or whatever? How do you tell people to gauge if they can afford it this year?

PROCTOR: Well, it's just one of the things that you have to look at. It's very simple with the internet to check an orbits or gaspricewatch and see what the price is going to be for you and weigh it against how many people are going. It's -- there's a way to save and this is one of them.

S. O'BRIEN: Doable. You have really terrific advice and practical advice on the Web site.

PROCTOR: Appreciate it. Tons of tips on the Web site.

S. O'BRIEN: We appreciate it. Wonderful. Brad Proctor, thanks a lot.

PROCTOR: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's send it back to Miles right after this short break. Stay with us, everybody. We'll be back in just a moment.