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CNN Saturday Morning News

Johnson Space Center Shootings; Cho Seung-Hui's Family Apologizes; More Memorials at Virginia Tech as Authorities Check Cho's Cell Phone Records; GOP Reps & Senators Souring on Attorney General Gonzales

Aired April 21, 2007 - 07:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, hello, everybody.
From the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is Saturday, April 21st.

I'm T.J. Holmes.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and I'm Betty Nguyen.

Good morning, everybody.

We want to appreciate or at least thank you, and we do appreciate you starting the day with us.

It is 7:00 a.m. on the East Coast and in Blacksburg, Virginia, police are working to find some connection linking the Virginia Tech shooter to his victims.

There are new developments to tell you about on that front and, also, a statement from the gunman's family.

HOLMES: And there's also a lot of other news we're following, including this. Ooh, going, gone, yes.

NGUYEN: Oh, it fell.

HOLMES: The house goes bye-bye. Dreams of ocean front property come crashing down on some homeowners. Stick around for that.

NGUYEN: Oh, goodness.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A truck was coming at me and I saw it and everybody started screaming and I just ran and I jumped up here.


NGUYEN: Check that out. Oh my goodness. Now, you don't see that everyday, and that's a good thing. A pickup truck out of control slams into a gas pump and, as you can imagine, everything catches on fire. It's explosive and we the results coming up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY TMZ.COM) ALEC BALDWIN: I'm going to let you know just how I feel about what a rotten little pig you really are. You are a rude, thoughtless little pig.


NGUYEN: Well, good morning to you, too, Alec Baldwin.

HOLMES: Yes. I can't wait to see the Father's Day card that she gets him.

That is a message everybody, of course, talking about. Ugly celebrity divorce playing out in public. We're going to be talking about it on this CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

But up first, the search for answers in the Virginia Tech massacre.

Why and how did Seung-Hui Cho go on a shooting rampage, killing 32 people?

The police investigation ramps up now. People, of course, across the campus still mourning and still remembering the victims.

Here's the latest now on this investigation. According to the Associated Press, police have filed warrants seeking Cho's cell phone records to determine if he told anyone about the shooting spree. Investigators also examining Emily Hilscher's laptop computer and cell phone records, looking for any possible link to Cho. Hilscher, of course, one of the students killed.

Cho's family also has issued an apology of sorts.

CNN's Randi Kaye reports now.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The statement comes just days after Seung-Hui Cho's senseless slaying of his classmates and his own death -- an apology stained with shame. "We are so deeply sorry for the devastation my brother has caused.

No words can express our sadness that 32 innocent people lost their lives this week in such a terrible, senseless tragedy. We are heartbroken. We grieve alongside the families, the Virginia Tech community, our state of Virginia and the rest of the nation and the world."

It was released by Cho's sister, Sun-Kyung Cho.

Of the victims, she writes: Each of these people had so much love, talent and gifts to offer, and their lives were cut short."

It is clear from her words Cho's family is struggling, too: "We are humbled by this darkness. We feel hopeless, helpless and lost...He has made the world weep. We are living a nightmare." Seung-Hui Cho lived here until he was eight, an apartment in a poor neighborhood of Seoul. Then the family moved to the U.S. That's when his mother began to worry about Cho's odd behavior. He was quiet and withdrawn.

KIM YANG-SOON, CHO'S GREAT AUNT (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Every time I called and asked how he was, she would say she was worried about him. She said she couldn't deal with him. She didn't know what to do. Cho's father and grandfather worried about that. Who would have known he would cause such trouble, the idiot?

KAYE: Cho's sister acknowledges her brother struggled to fit in.

REGAN WILDER, CLASSMATE: He was just known as that kid that didn't speak. He just -- he never spoke and that's how everyone remembered him.

KAYE (on camera): Cho's parents left South Korea in hopes of a better life. They worked as dry cleaners, his sister for a State Department contractor. They had hoped for Cho, too. But now, living in seclusion, buried in grief, Cho's family members have become his victims, too.

(voice-over): "This is someone that I grew up with and loved. Now I feel like I don't know this person. There is much justified anger and disbelief at what my brother did and a lot of questions are left unanswered."

Questions whose answers may never come.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: And this weekend on an all new CNN Special Investigations Unit, inside the mind of the Virginia Tech killer. You can join Soledad O'Brien tonight and tomorrow at 8:00 right here on CNN.

NGUYEN: Well, NASA is reviewing security measures in the wake of a hostage situation in Houston that left two people dead. It happened at the Johnson Space Center, and police are reviewing this incident and they're trying to find out why it happened.

CNN's Susan Roesgen is live at the Johnson Space Center to bring us up to date on exactly how all of this played out -- good morning, Susan.


You know, all too often in situations like this, the police just don't know and won't ever know what happened in the last few minutes before a shooting.

But in this case, they have a survivor -- a secretary who kept her wits. And she managed to keep her life here. The gunman, Bill Phillips, was a long time contract engineer here. And he had some kind of a dispute with David Beverly, a NASA engineer and Fran Crenshaw, the secretary, was caught in the middle -- wrong time, wrong place.

The Houston Police Department describes what happened next.


CHIEF HAROLD HURTT, HOUSTON POLICE: We believe what happened was that David, the other engineer was shot during the period of time when the first two shots was heard and someone called the emergency center.

After a period of negotiation and the hostage situation, when the one shot was heard, we think that that's when the individual killed himself and then shortly after that, Fran called the emergency center and set everything in motion.

As I understand the chain of events, she was very courageous, a calming influence in this whole issue and apparently there was a very positive relationship between her and the suspect because he at no time that we know of threatened to do injury to her.


ROESGEN: Fran Crenshaw was tied to a chair with duct tape. But she, again, as you heard there, was not injured. And Bill Phillips, the police say, the man with the gun who killed David Beverly and then himself, bought that gun, Betty, just three days ago.

And as you mentioned, NASA is now reviewing its security procedures. They say there are no metal detectors in this area. No surveillance cameras either. You just flash a NASA badge to get onto this property. But they said that they were also reviewing those security procedures even this week after the Virginia Tech shootings. So they have a lot of questions to answer out here now.

NGUYEN: We do know that the hostage survivor has been providing a lot of information.

But at this point, though, Susan, what do you know about the gunman?

ROESGEN: Well, we don't know very much about him at all. We know that the police searched his house last night. They didn't say that they had found any incriminating evidence. They say that he doesn't have any close relatives in this area.

However, the police chief did mention that the gunman, Bill Phillips, might have left some kind of a note on the office bulletin board. But he didn't say what might have been on that note, so we'll have to see what happens as the investigation continues.

NGUYEN: Absolutely.

CNN's Susan Roesgen joining us live this morning. Thank you, Susan.

The tour?

It is almost over for billionaire Charles Simonyi, the former Microsoft programmer and current space tourist is headed back home. Simonyi has been up in space for more than 10 days now and he's coming back with a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut who were on the International Space Station for seven months.

They'll land in Kazakhstan. Simonyi was seen off on his $25 million voyage by good friend, Martha Stewart.

HOLMES: Another company now recalling some of its pet food products, this time over rice protein contaminated with melamine. Royal Canan is recalling five types of widely available dry dog food. A statement on the company Web site says it will no longer buy any vegetable proteins from any Chinese suppliers.

The original recalls were made after contaminated wheat gluten from China was found in some pet foods. More than 100 brands of pet food have been recalled and you can find the entire list at

Also a warning now for people and some people food, especially you folks planning a cookout this weekend. Frozen hamburger patties sold in five Western states now being recalled after three kids were sickened by E. coli. About 100,000 pounds of the meat were distributed in California, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The meat produced from April to May of last year.

Here is a list of the brand names involved. The patties were made by the Richwood Meat Company.

NGUYEN: Well, we do have a little bit of good news, despite what you're seeing there. The humidity is up in South Georgia today, and that could help firefighters battling wildfires there. More than 25,000 acres near the town of Waycross already burned and nearly 20 homes have been destroyed. The largest fire is about 35 percent contained.

More than 1,000 people, in fact, were forced out of their homes because of this, and another 5,000, mainly seniors, are being urged to leave because of all of the smoke in the air.

HOLMES: Many parts of the country in a drought right now. We're going to check in for the first time this morning with Reynolds Wolf to show us exactly what's going on in some of those parts -- good morning to you, sir.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning to both of you.


HOLMES: All right, folks are going to appreciate this, too. Yes, that's their house. That's his...

NGUYEN: Upside down?

HOLMES: That's not the spot it's supposed to be in. Life hitting bottom there. House falls off a crumbling cliff. We'll show you this big slide.

NGUYEN: Also, a modern day mutiny? Or is it men overboard?

This yacht was left running with nobody on it.

HOLMES: Also, you've heard it by now, more than likely, Alec Baldwin's angry rants.

Take a listen for yourselves. You tell us, is this any way for a dad to talk to daughter?


BALDWIN: I'm going to let you know just how I feel about what a rude little pig you really are. You are a rude, thoughtless little pig.


HOLMES: Well, a bitter Hollywood custody dispute going public now and you -- yes, you, too -- can weigh in.

Stick around.


NGUYEN: Can you believe what we're seeing here?

Yes, trouble, shall we say, in Newfoundland. Parts of this Canadian town falling into the sea. Not only can you see it, but you can hear it. And a house actually tumbled into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Look at that right there -- upside down.

All of this actually has been going on since Sunday. One house down, at least four more threatened. That's not good news.

Geologists say a landslide last year intensified erosion that led to this disaster.

HOLMES: Well, hope is running out right now. The massive search for three missing sailors called off for now. But the mystery remains. This is happening off the coast of Australia and Daya Clark has the story for us.


DAYA CLARK, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a 10 hour journey, the Kaz II was towed back to port in Townsville early this morning, its dingy still attached.

At first light, police boarded the catamaran, hoping to find some clue as to why the crew disappeared with the engine and computers still running. The yacht was spotted by a Customs plane three days ago. A rescue team reached the boat yesterday.

Data extracted from its GPS indicates the men left the boat in rough conditions, within the first 24 hours of their voyage last Sunday.

ROY WALL, POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: Later on during the day, it appears that it's just been tracking in a slightly different direction and probably consistent with what the wind and the tidal flow would take it.

CLARK: Missing are 56-year-old skipper Derek Batten, and brothers Peter and James Tunstead, both in their 60s. Relatives arrived in Townsville last night, hoping for more information.

SHANE TUNSTEAD, SON OF MISSING SAILOR: We heard that they lowered someone down onto the boat, searched the boat and found no one. And that's all we know.

CLARK: Shane and Grant Tunstead say their father James had been looking forward to the trip of a lifetime, sailing the recently purchased catamaran back to western Australia.

GRANT TUNSTEAD, SON OF MISSING SAILOR: Dad was like a little kid at Christmastime, you know?

So it's odd.

SHANE TUNSTEAD: Well, I actually spoke to him a little bit, a half an hour into the sail. And that was the last we heard.

CLARK: But this afternoon, any hope that the men would be found alive dimmed as a massive air search was called off.

WALL: The expert medical advice we have now is that there's very little hope at all.

CLARK: Police say they have yet to decide whether to resume further searches tomorrow.

Daya Clark, ABC News.


NGUYEN: This is such a mystery because the GPS navigation was still intact, everything was still on board. Nothing was touched, really.

So if it was a situation of pirates at sea, you'd think it would have been robbed. No. Just no sign of the people on board.

HOLMES: An absolute mystery...


HOLMES: ... they're trying to figure out there. Hopefully they will... NGUYEN: Hopefully in (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HOLMES: ... because the families want to know something.

NGUYEN: Yes, it's awful.

HOLMES: And we'll keep on top of that one and bring you the updates as those come in.

Meanwhile, another story, another mystery, a lot of questions. There had long been questions, actually, about the mental stability of that Virginia Tech shooter.


So why was he on campus and not in the care of mental health professionals?

Plus, Veronica de la Cruz is learning more about the victims.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, we've been honoring the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings with a tribute page that we've created at Your thoughts, pictures and video next from the Dot-Com Desk -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right, thank you, Veronica.

We'll see you here in just a moment.

Also, asleep at the wheel in West Virginia...


HOLMES: ... and the fiery consequences, all caught on tape.

Stick around for exactly what was going on here.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just an ordinary day, a weapon drawn...


HOLMES: That music you're hearing there from Curtis Parse (ph) and Josh Kemp (ph), performed by their band, The Season. Curtis is a Virginia Tech alumnus.

Back to that investigation now of that Virginia Tech gunman.

Many wondering today if he was so mentally unbalanced, why was he on campus?

Here now, CNN's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All the signs were there -- extreme isolation, stalking, violent writings, suicidal thoughts, a judge's finding that Cho presented an imminent danger to himself.

So why was he not forced into the custody of mental health professionals?

CNN legal a little Jeffrey Toobin.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean schools and universities are really in a bind here because, on the one hand, they can be sued for locking people up unnecessarily. On the other hand, they can be sued for not locking people up who go on to do damage to themselves or to other people.

FOREMAN: Many of America's 16 million college students exhibit signs of mental stress or illness. The American College Health Association found that one in 10 has seriously considered suicide, and one in 100 actually tries it. Counselors say most of these students just need help.

Greg Eells counsels at Cornell.

GREGORY EELLS, DIRECTOR, CORNELL UNIVERSITY STUDENT COUNSELING: If someone is really struggling and seeking help, you don't want to take their rights away. You don't want to do something that's going to keep people from seeking help and getting the help that they need.

FOREMAN: Still, victims rights advocates say the public needs help, too, in dealing with the mentally ill. Eight years ago, a schizophrenic man pushed 32-year-old Kendra Ann Webdale in front of a speeding train in New York, killing her. He was off his medication. Her death led to the passage of Kendra's Law, which allows the mentally ill to be medicated, by force, if necessary.

Her mother, Patricia, now an advocate for mental health treatment, says shootings like the one at Virginia Tech might be averted if patient privacy laws were changed so doctors, counselors, professors, even students, could share more information about potentially dangerous individuals.

PATRICIA WEBDALE, KENDRA'S LAW IMPROVEMENT PANEL: The idea is to protect the privacy of people but sometimes we protect the privacy of the wrong people.

FOREMAN (on camera): If Cho had been deemed an imminent danger to others, not just to himself, he could have been committed. If he had been committed, he could not have legally bought those guns.

(voice-over): But knowing the difference between the merely disturbed and the truly dangerous is key and often no one knows until it's too late.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEO TAPE)

NGUYEN: Well, we have put together a place on where you can go to find out more about the lives of the Virginia Tech victims.

Veronica de la Cruz joins us now with much more on this -- hi, Veronica.

DE LA CRUZ: Hey, there, Betty.

We've had such an overwhelming response from people across the country. They've wanted to help remember the 32 people who lost their lives in this tragic event.

So at, we created a tribute page.


DE LA CRUZ (voice-over): Friends of Ryan Clark say the 22-year- old senior was "a gift in the lives of people who met him." In this video tribute, a fellow band member says Ryan was one of those guys who was everyone's good friend.

Graduate student Julia Pryde was interested in biological systems and engineering. She traveled to Ecuador last summer to study water quality issues. A friend of hers writes: "She was all about making the Earth a better place."

Daniel Perez Cueva, originally from Peru, loved soccer and swimming. He spoke four languages. A friend says: "He had a beautiful smile that would brighten up anyone's day and a wonderful sense of humor."

Dance professor Kevin Granata -- a former student sent this video of Granata teaching in Norris Hall in 2003. He was considered one of the top five biomechanics researchers in the country, working on movement dynamics in cerebral palsy.


DE LA CRUZ: And, again, you can find all of this online at Keep on sending us your thoughts, your pictures and your video, as we continue to honor those who lost their lives in this tragedy. That address is And we're going to be sharing more of those I-Reports, coming up at 9:00 a.m. Eastern -- Betty.

NGUYEN: All right, Veronica, thank you.

Keeping students safe on campus -- that's what we're going to be talking about.

HOLMES: Yes, new technology, now a new tool -- a look at one way students could get an earlier warning.

NGUYEN: And she says it was an accident, but prosecutors call it cold-blooded murder.

How did the jury rule in the case of Mary Winkler?



ROSSANA SALARIS, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, ELECTRONIC PAYMENTS NETWORK: The average household receives 20 bills every month. With electronic payments, you can save $150 a year. And that is late fees, anywhere from $25 to $75 per bill, and with stamps, envelopes and checks.

GERRI WILLIS, PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR (voice-over): And since the payments are deducted from your bank account automatically, you always pay on time. Check with your utility providers, health club and credit card companies to see if they offer financial incentives for direct payments. And you'll be helping the environment.

SALARIS: Up to 18 million trees a year can be saved and over 390,000 cars can be taken off the road if all of us paid our bills electronically.

WILLIS (on camera): I'm Gerri Willis and that's your Tip of the Day.

For more ideas, strategies and tips to save you money and protect your house, watch "OPEN HOUSE" every Saturday, 9:30 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.


NGUYEN: Look at this. Oh! And then it catches on fire. Asleep at the wheel. Look at the explosive consequences. We're going to show you much more of this amazing crash caught on tape.

HOLMES: Also, an early alert system to inform students of a crisis on campus. We'll show you the new technology available on this CNN SATURDAY MORNING. Hello again to you, everybody. Welcome back. I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for starting your day with us.

First up the, search goes on for answers in the Virginia Tech massacre. Why and how did Seung-hui Cho (sic) go on a shooting rampage killing 32 people? The police investigation is ramping up, and here is the latest.

According to the "Associated Press," police have filed warrants seeking Cho's cell phone records to determine if he told anyone about the shooting spree. Investigators are also examining Emily Hilscher's laptop computer and cell phone records looking for any possible link to Cho. Hilscher is one of the students killed at the west A.J. dorm. And Cho's family issues an apology. Quote, "He has made the world weep and we are living a nightmare. Our family is so very sorry for my brother's unspeakable actions. It is a terrible tragedy for all of us. Our family will continue to cooperate fully and do whatever we can to help authorities understand why these senseless acts happened."

HOLMES: Meanwhile, across the country, colleges are retooling their emergency notification plans in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings. In California, cell phones are being used to establish an alert system on campuses. But, as CNN's Chris Lawrence reports, some schools are going beyond that.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Schools are scrambling to avoid what happened at Virginia Tech where students waited two hours for the first warning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a threat on campus and we had no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had no indication that there was anything going on in the morning.

LAWRENCE: But how to inform so many after the decision is made to do so? When an emergency strikes, students are everywhere.


LAWRENCE: Companies like MIR3 are adapting technology to notify them online, in class, at home.

MARGI SCHMIDT, MIR3 SR. VICE PRESIDENT: You can hit their land line, their cell phone, SMS, their pager, anything that they have on them.

LAWRENCE: All with one key stroke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have selected I'm OK. Your response has been selected.

LAWRENCE: At MIR3's headquarters, a technician inputs our information but we're miles away when the warning comes through.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have an important message. This is only a test.

LAWRENCE: OK, obviously this was not an emergency. But if it had been it could have told us, don't come back in the building. Stay away. Anything like that?

SCHMIDT: It could have. It could have actually invited you to evacuate a certain area, giving you instructions on where to go next.

LAWRENCE: Margi Schmidt says the technology was originally used by local governments and businesses. It warned Florida families before Hurricane Ivan, and informed employees after Katrina. SCHMIDT: You know, should we go to Houston, should we go to, you know, some other city to be safe, and set up shop?

LAWRENCE: Technicians can input anywhere from a few names to a few million.

SCHMIDT: I'm going to notify 6,000 students of the situation.

LAWRENCE: MIR3 can just send a warning or ask for a response.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need help. Press 2.

SCHMIDT: And I can create another group of those people and actually give that group off to first responders and say, these are the people right away, right now, that need help.

LAWRENCE: And in a situation like Virginia Tech, every student warned is one more out of danger. Chris Lawrence, CNN, San Diego.


NGUYEN: Texting during trouble. The technology is there. But is it ready to equip every college, business, or even local government with the ability to instantly warn thousands of an impending danger? Corey Dade of the "Wall Street Journal" joins us this morning. He's been looking in to who is using urgent texting systems and how this system works. We appreciate you being with us.


NGUYEN: Good morning. OK, so explain to us in the instance of an emergency, how valuable is texting?

DADE: Well, it can be very valuable insofar as if you have thousands of people to reach at once, which would be the case at a university, and you need to reach them within seconds.

There is that capability there, because the beauty of it is, most young people, most college students, carry their phones pretty much as an appendage. So you can get them very quickly.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. And I know that it's already being used. When we look at the Virginia Tech situation, a lot of people when they saw that said what about the notification system? Why didn't they send it out, text or via voicemail or something besides just an e- mail. This is already being used at colleges around the nation. Talk to us about how that's working.

DADE: Colleges around the nation, grade schools around the nation, grade schools, though, use more of a phone-based system where they send automated calls that are -- that can be used in the events of emergency.

The turn to this came, of course, after 9/11. And so, on the university side, and as far as corporations and certain government agencies, they're using text messaging to get to people's cell phones. They're also using capabilities that allow you to use different types of technology, different bandwidths to avoid the problem that may happen where you have a crash of a system just like you would with a cell phone tower if a cell phone tower has a problem, you can't get text messaging in.

NGUYEN: Well, there's other problems, too. One if they're out of range. Maybe they can't get it.

DADE: Right.

NGUYEN: Another thing, too, is a lot of times when students are in class, they don't have that phone on.

DADE: Right.

NGUYEN: And so, if you need to get information to them, like this student at Virginia Tech, they were in class during all of this, so if there was a warning, would texting be the right way?

DADE: Not for individuals. And that's part of the problem. No plan, no system is foolproof. And so, as long as you are away from some mode of technology, you are away from any mode of communication. And so the only option there is to have some infrastructure in place on your campuses, in your classes, that are allowing you to notify people say, a P.A. system, for example.

NGUYEN: Well and besides texting, what else is out there? There's got to be tons of different ways, methods, technology is just at our fingertips.

DADE: Right. You have text messaging. You have e-mail alerts, of course, as we've talked about and as we saw in the case of Virginia Tech. You have sort of phone systems that do sort of reverse 911 technology where you can send out more than 5,000 calls in a minute. And so, as technology expands, you will find more web-based solutions that allow you to manipulate more of these technologies and get more people.

NGUYEN: And these are all ready available?

DADE: Yes. All of these technologies are available. Some companies are getting more specific where they are -- they are using web-based apparatus to get -- to get their messages out. But, they're in full circulation, and government agencies, schools, universities -

NGUYEN: Cost worthy, cost effective? Is it going to cost a lot for a student to be able to have this texting any time there's like a weather storm that, you know, and weather emergency that's headed their way or maybe even just an emergency on campus?

DADE: Well, if you're talking about texting from an agency, say your school, that bill is picked up by the school.


DADE: And so that can be some of these systems cost as much as $250,000 to implement depending upon the expansiveness of it.

NGUYEN: All right, well Corey Dade with "The Wall Street Journal," thanks so much for talking to us and exploring the different options out there. We appreciate that. T.J.?

DADE: My pleasure, you're welcome.

HOLMES: All right, Betty. A Tennessee preacher's wife now facing prison time after a guilty verdict in the killing of her husband.


JUDGE WEBER MCCRAW, MCNAIRY CO. CIRCUIT COURT: We, the jury, find the defendant Mary C. Winkler, guilty of voluntary manslaughter.


HOLMES: Mary Winkler avoids a first degree murder conviction. A jury convicting her of voluntary manslaughter after hearing testimony she snapped after years of abuse.


LESLIE BALLIN, ATTORNEY FOR MARY WINKLER: There's a sentencing hearing coming up. At that time, May 18th, Mary will have the opportunity to talk and address issues concerning remorse, how she feels, what her future plans will be, she certainly has addressed the facts of the case in the course of this trial. But she will talk at the appropriate time, which was not today, it will be May 18th.


HOLMES: Winkler faces a sentence of three to six years in prison. Her in-laws have been caring for her three children. They filed a wrongful death suit against her.

You can tune in tonight for a legal roundtable on this controversial case. A civil rights attorney and a former prosecutor join Rick Sanchez live in the "NEWSROOM" to discuss the verdict and the predicted judgment, punishment at 10:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

Well filling up proved to be full of drama for customers at a gas station near Charleston, West Virginia, this week. Watch the upper right-hand corner of your screen. A pickup truck you see there comes barreling down across the grass, striking a pump and causing it to explode. The truck then slammed into a convenience store. Nobody was hurt or seriously hurt, rather, in this thing.

Witnesses say the driver and his passenger were both asleep. This is the second time someone has crashed into that building, believe it or not. The owners are putting big boulders out front to make sure that the third time is not the charm.

NGUYEN: What are the odds of that? Not only the fact that no one was injured, but this has happened twice before. HOLMES: Happened twice. It's like a big bull's-eye on the outside of that store. Maybe they should change the paint scheme out there. Good thing nobody was hurt.

NGUYEN: Oh, yes.

HOLMES: Meanwhile we're going to get back to the Virginia Tech story. More tales of survival from one student who survived that massacre.

NGUYEN: Plus Josh Levs is going to be joining us, good morning.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Betty. Yes, you know the events of this week can make anybody feel less safe. But what are the chances of being killed in an act of violence? I'm going to have that coming up in a CNN reality check.

NGUYEN: And Alec Baldwin in a rage. Have you heard it? Well, there is an angry voicemail that's being leaked to the tabloid press, something that you have to hear to believe.



PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: So, Emily, take us back to the moment that your teacher started jamming desks up against the door of your classroom and she told you and your fellow students to go to the back of the class and hide under desks.

EMILY HAAS, INJURED IN VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTINGS: She -- we heard the gunshots and she put the door -- she put the desks in front of the door, and she said call 911, get to the back of the room, get under the desks. Everybody, as far as I know, tried to move as far back as they could. I was back up at the back against the wall, on the side. And just waiting and hoping that he wouldn't come in.


HOLMES: Another student there describing the horrifying moments during Monday's shootings at Virginia Tech. Such carnage can make anyone feel less safe and it's causing a lot of people to ask, what are my chances of being killed in an act of violence? Our Josh Levs here now, been looking in to that, here with the reality check. Yes, a lot of folks you think, oh my goodness, you're watching your back, everything you do, but what's the reality?

LEVS: That's the idea, it's interesting that you're saying that because psychologically people are talking about that and we're seeing reports about that all over the country.

Not just what happened this week, but even if you hear the story yesterday, Johnson in Texas. It seems that murder, killing is everywhere around us. So that's what we wanted to do today. Give you all a sense of the actual numbers. Here you go, homicide in America, six in 100,000 people are killed, that's a total of 17,000 each year. Now most victims are not like the kind of thing you saw this week. In most cases, the victims know the attackers and know the people. Sometimes even intimately, who are killing them.

What I want to do is give you a sense of the age breakdown because it applies more to younger people. Here you go. You can see the groups there, 15 to 24 and 25 to 34-year-olds, it's the second leading cause of death and the third leading cause of death.

But once you're over 34, according to the Centers for Disease control and Prevention it drops big time. Now some of you are in these age groups and I'm going to leave it there for a second for you all to check out -- 35 to 44, sixth leading cause of death. But after that, it's not even in the top 10.

Now if you think about it, it makes sense, because the older people are, the more likely to die from natural causes. Even still, it drops completely out of the top 10. So it might not be as common as you think it is. Now there is this one group where it's number one. And it's the leading killer of blacks in America age 15 to 34. That's according to the CDC.

I'm going to point out they're talking specifically about -- they don't say African-American, they're talking about anybody in America who is black, whether they're American or not, whether African heritage or not. That's the group they're talking about. And T.J., in the vast majority of cases like 80-something percent, it's firearms, the weapon used for the killing.

HOLMES: And specifically we've been looking at -- you mentioned Johnson. But also the school shooting was a big one. When these happen they're high profile. People think they're happening all the time. So again what is the reality there?

LEVS: And they're not. I'm glad you asked about that. We do seem to hear about these a lot. The Education Department actually tracks this these pretty well. And here's what they've got. An average 16 killings occur each year on a campus.

And again in most cases, it's people who know the people sometimes intimately involved with those people, 16 in a year. Now keep in mind, that figure was doubled in one day at Virginia Tech. But you know, T.J., a college student is much, much more likely to have alcohol poisoning or an accident involving alcohol or that kind of thing.

HOLMES: Unfortunately.

LEVS: And it's true for all of us. Honestly, if you buckle up your seat belt, you're doing a lot more to protect yourself than if you walk around being afraid that you're going to get killed.

HOLMES: Josh Levs, reality check, thanks for putting it in perspective, a lot of folks worried out there of course. Well of course, this weekend as well on an all new CNN "SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT," we're going to go inside the mind of the Virginia Tech killer. Soledad O'Brien will have that for us. You can catch her tonight and tomorrow at 8:00 right here on CNN - Betty?

NGUYEN: And you also want to keep it on CNN for the latest in the investigation. Plus, is all fair in love and war? Well, a bitter Hollywood divorce boils over as an angry call gets leaked to the media.


NGUYEN: All right. Here's what we have for you today.


NGUYEN: A celebrity temper tantrum that is guaranteed to get you talking.

HOLMES: Yes, yes, here we go again. Actor Alec Baldwin lashing out at his 11-year-old daughter Ireland in a rambling, expletive- filled phone message obtained by the Web site The call is at the center of a bitter custody dispute between Baldwin and his ex-wife actress Kim Basinger. In the tape, Baldwin is furious with his daughter for not picking up the phone for a scheduled phone call.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: I'm tired of playing this game with you. I'm leaving this message with you to tell you, you have insulted me for the last time. You have insulted me. You don't have the brains or the decency as a human being -- I don't give a (BLEEP) that you're 12-years-old or 11-years-old or that you're a child, or that your mother is a thoughtless pain in the (BLEEP) who doesn't care about what you do as far as I'm concerned.

You have humiliated me for the last time with this phone this (BLEEP) you pull on me with this (BLEEP) phone situation that you would never dream of doing to your mother. And you do it to me constantly and over and over again.

I am going to get on a plane or I'm going to come out there for the day and I'm going to straighten your (BLEEP) out when I see you. Do you understand me? I'm going to really make sure you get it. Then I'm going to get on a plane, I'm going to turn around, and I'm going to come home. So you better be ready Friday the 20th to meet with me so I'm going to let you know just how I feel about what a rude little pig you really are.


NGUYEN: Oh, that's just painful.

HOLMES: Well, if my dad is listening, I swear I'll take your call. First ring, I'm picking it up. Baldwin's spokesman released this statement and he says, quote, "In the best interest of the child, Alec will do what the mother is pathologically incapable of doing, keeping his mouth shut and obeying the court order. The mother and her lawyer leaked this sealed material in violation of a court order, "end quote. Now Kim Basinger's publicist tells TMZ that the tape speaks for itself.

NGUYEN: But you know, T.J., we talked to a lot of people about this yesterday. Unfortunately a lot of people said when their parents got mad as a child, they heard a lot of that and maybe even worse.

HOLMES: I heard a lot of that.

NGUYEN: Not that it makes it right.

HOLMES: Not that it makes it right. Your parents scold you, sometimes they scold you harshly.

NGUYEN: You think?

HOLMES: Yes. That's why we turned out to be like we are, Betty, because we were...

NGUYEN: ... Issues and everything, right? No, I'm kidding!

Veronica de la Cruz is tracking the story on-line and joins us right now with the latest. Any word on how this tape got out?

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Betty, you just mentioned that Baldwin's spokesman said the voicemail was leaked in violation of a court order.

How it got out, we're not too sure about that yet. We know at this point that Baldwin himself acknowledges that he should have used different language with his daughter. That much we know.

Now I've been keeping an eye on his official Web site, it's And he's released this statement. It says, quote, "In such public cases, your opponents attempt to take a picture of you on your worst day and insist this is who you are as a person. Outside the doors of divorce court, I have friends, I have respect from people I work with, and I have a normal relationship with my daughter. All of that is threatened whenever one enters a courtroom," end quote.

Again that's Now as you can imagine, Betty, the blogs have been lighting up over this controversy. We found a lot of information on I'm going to show you.

So far there have been eight different blog posts on Alec Baldwin alone. And unfortunately it looks as though he has topped this week's biggest losers.

Now if you scroll down a lot of people have been weighing in with their thoughts. This person says Alec do yourself a favor, get in touch with a child psychologist ASAP. The situation will not get better by itself. The older your daughter gets, the more difficult it will become.

This person says hello, the child and father are the only losers. Mother still has daughter and daughter is now without a father.

And all of this brings us to our question of the day, we are asking you out there, we'd like to know if you think that Alec Baldwin should lose custody of his daughter? Yes or no. What do you think? You can send us your e-mail to and we're going to be reading those throughout the morning. Betty and T.J.?

NGUYEN: Well that is a good point because I believe we learned yesterday from TMZ that there is a hearing on May 4th, which will determine whether he does lose some visitation rights. So we'll be watching.

DE LA CRUZ: It's so sad, yeah.

NGUYEN: Thank you, Veronica.

HOLMES: And still ahead on this CNN SATURDAY MORNING, the family of the Virginia Tech campus killer speaks.

NGUYEN: Plus, will what happened there bring any changes on the issue of gun control?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope there's not a rush to do anything. We need to take a deep breath.


NGUYEN: The political impact of those campus killings. That's coming up.

HOLMES: Then on "HOUSE CALL," do people with autism have their own language? Dr. Sanjay Gupta sits down with one girl to uncover her fascinating life.

NGUYEN: Grab a cup of coffee and stuck around, would you? There's more CNN SATURDAY MORNING coming right up.


NGUYEN: Well good morning, everyone, on this Saturday. I'm Betty Nguyen here at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes. So glad you could be here with us. We are following a number of developing stories this morning, including a major security breach at the Johnson Space Center. Two people dead. We will take you there live.

NGUYEN: And there are new questions about the Virginia Tech shooter. Did he communicate his plans with anyone else? Police are checking cell phone records. We're live in Blacksburg. HOLMES: Also happening now, the Soyuz space craft making its way back to earth and on board, a U.S. space tourist. We'll bring it to you on this CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

NGUYEN: We do want to start with that deadly hostage standoff at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. As T.J. mentioned, two people are dead, and NASA left questioning their security measures.

The drama heightened with the Virginia Tech massacre fresh on everybody's mind. Let's take you live now to CNN's Susan Roesgen who is at the Johnson Space Center this morning.

What can you tell us about how this all played out, Susan?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betty, you know, any shooting in any office building always raises questions, but in this case, even President Bush was notified that there was a gunman here at Johnson Space Center, and that's a big deal.

The gunman was a contract engineer, Bill Phillips, and he shot and killed a NASA engineer, David Beverly, and then he killed himself. Now the question for NASA is, how did a guy with a gun get inside this federal facility?


MICHAEL COATS, DIR., JOHNSON SPACE CENTER: Because of the Virginia Tech shootings, we reviewed our security procedures. They are fairly tight. We have badging. Everybody has to show a badge. And the badge is touched every time somebody comes through the gate here.

And our security procedure are very tight, especially after 9/11. They have tightened up considerably. So we reviewed them this week after the Virginia Tech shootings and concluded we wouldn't change anything we are doing right now.


COATS: Well, we don't check every car that comes in. We have random checks of cars, but we don't stop every one and check them.


ROESGEN: The NASA spokesman also said, Betty, that there were no metal detectors nor any surveillance cameras in the area where the shooting happened.

NGUYEN: All right. So as we learn more information, Susan, I want to ask you this, were police ever able to communicate with the gunman?

ROESGEN: No, they weren't. They tried to reach him on the phone. They couldn't do that. They used a bullhorn, didn't get any response. And then about three hours after the first report of gunfire, they heard a single shot, and that's when the SWAT team decided to rush in. They broke the door down and found both Bill Phillips and David Beverly dead on the floor.

There was, as we have mentioned earlier today, one survivor. A secretary happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but she is OK and she did talk to the police, Betty, here last night.

NGUYEN: Yes, she will provide a lot of information as they piece together exactly what happened. CNN's Susan Roesgen at the Johnson Space Center. Thank you, Susan.

HOLMES: Now we want to turn to Virginia, where several memorial services are planned today for the victims of Monday's campus massacre. For investigators, the focus now, the cell phone and laptop of one of the first to die in the shootings. CNN's Brianna Keilar now joins us live now from Blacksburg.

Good morning to you, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, T.J. As of yesterday, investigators continued to look into any possible links between Seung-Hui Cho, the killer, and Emily Hilscher. Hilscher, a 19-year-old, one of the two who was killed in that first shooting here Monday on that on-campus dormitory. And the search warrant indicates that investigators are examining Hilscher's laptop as well as her cell phone for any possible links between the two students.

Meanwhile, the weekend finally here. After, no doubt, the most difficult week in the history of this campus. And yesterday, of course, was a day of remembrance, not only here, but really around the nation. And Virginia Tech students say the focus was right where it should be, and that was on those who lost their lives here on Monday.


KEILAR (voice-over): Bells tolled around Virginia and around the country today as the nation stopped to mourn the 32 victims of Monday's massacre at Virginia Tech. On the campus itself, hundreds marked a moment of silence at 12:00 noon. Grieving students and area residents brought flowers and candles to a memorial on the Drill field in front of Norris Hall.

MEREDITH GEORGES, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: It's starting to heal. It's kind of a closure. It's just amazing to see the community together, to see all this orange and maroon when it's not a game day.

KEILAR: Hokie hope day, that's what Virginia Tech alum called it, asking people to wear the school's colors of orange and maroon. And they did just that, releasing balloons of the same colors into the sky. Across the nation many Americans observed a moment of silence, including lawmakers on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Places like Boston, Las Vegas, and Baltimore, bells rang out in remembrance.

In downtown Blacksburg, the grief was still raw with residents openly weeping. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine declared this a day of mourning to honor victims of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

GOV. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: This event this week, this horrible event has touched every corner of the world.

KEILAR: Kaine spoke of the universality of grief at a prayer service at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Some students there took turns reading the victims' named aloud, pausing for chimes between each one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kevin Granata, professor.

KEILAR: And at the end of the service, a spontaneous pep rally with students erupting into the Virginia Tech school cheer.

CROWD: Let's go!

CROWD: Hokies!



KEILAR: And that's a chant students here at Virginia Tech say has really taken on a new meaning for them as a symbol of solidarity and strength -- T.J.

HOLMES: And, Brianna, we know we saw that -- the baseball game, Virginia Tech played Miami. Besides that, have there been any other signs of normalcy, I guess, around campus?

KEILAR: There have been, finally yesterday. You know, right next to the baseball game there at stadium, students were playing bocce (ph) ball sort of to the side of the stadium. And then on Drill field yesterday after people came for a moment of silence, we saw some students playing ultimate frisbee, we saw them out there playing with their dogs.

So certainly some signs of normalcy, but if you ask any student here, they say it's far from normal. It's a far cry from what you would expect to see on this campus on a Friday afternoon or on the weekend -- T.J.

HOLMES: Yes, we could certainly expect it to take a while. Brianna Keilar for us there in Blacksburg. Thank you so much, Brianna.

Meanwhile, Cho's sister has issued an apology on behalf of the family. In that, saying, quote: "He has made the world weep. We are living a nightmare. Our family is so very sorry for my brother's unspeakable actions. It is a terrible tragedy for all of us." Goes on to say: "Our family will continue to cooperate fully and do whatever we can to help authorities understand why these senseless acts happened."

Also tomorrow night, beginning at 7:00, CNN is honoring the Virginia Tech students and teachers who lost their lives. "AMERICAN MORNING's" Kiran Chetry hosts "32 Lives to Remember." Then at 8:00, Soledad O'Brien and "CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT" takes you inside the mind of a killer. Don't miss those special reports, starting Sunday night at 7:00 Eastern.

NGUYEN: Already under fire, now even some Republicans are turning up the heat on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales while critics are calling for him to resign over the firings of eight U.S. Attorneys, and a hearing on Capitol Hill. This past week did not help his case. We want to get some more details now from congressional correspondent Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The third-ranking Republican in the House tells CNN he now thinks it's time for the attorney general to step down.

"I think that they would be well served by fresh leadership," GOP Congressman Adam Putnam told CNN. "He did not distinguish himself in the hearing. There remains a cloud over the department."

In the Senate, an influential conservative on judicial matters said he's wrestling with whether Alberto Gonzales should keep his job. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama tells CNN the attorney general should take time this weekend to think about it. "Ask himself whether he can effectively reconstitute the attorney general's office, and I'll be thinking about the same thing," said sessions. "If he feels like he cannot, then it would be best for the president and the country to resign."

Sessions is usually a reliable Bush ally, but he's a former U.S. Attorney who has become increasingly concerned the Justice Department is damaged by the fired prosecutors controversy, and was openly frustrated Thursday when the attorney general couldn't remember if he was at a key November meeting 10 days before the attorneys were fired.

SEN. JEFF SESSION (R), ALABAMA: Well, I guess I'm concerned about your recollection, really, because it's not that long ago. It was an important issue, and that's troubling to me.

BASH: GOP support for Gonzales is so limited, some Republicans who want him to stay say it's because the alternative, a confirmation hearing for a new attorney general, could be worse.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: If for some reason Alberto Gonzales is thrown overboard, it's not going to end the problem that the president has from a political standpoint. A newly emboldened majority, a Democrat majority, who is going to continue to conduct investigations and try to gain political advantage the best they can.

BASH (on camera): There is no organized Republican effort to force the attorney general out, but this weekend will be critical. Several GOP senators say they're going to be reviewing information and transcripts and may be more aggressive in calling for Gonzales to resign if they determine he is simply too damaged to stay on.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NGUYEN: Well, we're talking about it, and you will be, too. Alec Baldwin's angry rant.

HOLMES: I don't know how you talk to your kids, but listen here to how at least Baldwin talked to his daughter in one phone call.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Let you know just how I feel about what a rotten little pig you really are. You are a rude, thoughtless, little pig.


HOLMES: A bitter Hollywood custody dispute goes public.

Plus, Veronica, I've been wanting to tell you exactly what I think about you -- no, I'm kidding. Good morning, Veronica.

VERONIA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, T.J. We're actually asking you to weigh in with your thoughts on all of this at Pretty serious question, though, should Alec Baldwin lose custody rights?

Plus, does that story top the list of the most popular at this morning? We're going to have that answer next from the .com|Desk -- Betty and T.J.

NGUYEN: You know you don't have to take that from T.J. You know that, right?

OK. And do people with autism have their own language? Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta uncovers this fascinating world. That is just minutes away on "HOUSE CALL" at 8:30 Eastern.


NGUYEN: As you can see, it's a busy morning at So let's check in with Veronica De La Cruz to see what's happening with those most popular stories and videos.

DE LA CRUZ: Well, we are watching the Web at, and here's what you out there are watching this morning. Topping that list, was it a temporary moment of insanity?


BALDWIN: Let you know just how I feel about what a rotten, little pig you really are. You are a rude, thoughtless, little pig.


DE LA CRUZ: A lot of people clicking on this piece of video, wanting to hear exactly what Baldwin said, and we're going to tell you how you can weigh in with your thoughts and all of the he said-she said in just a minute. Also popular this morning at, I don't recall, I don't recall, I don't recall. How many times can the attorney general say it? Jeanne Moos takes a look at his forgetful testimony in her report.

Finally, a winning moment for a dolphin named Winner. Winner lost her tail in 2005 when she got caught in a crab trap. This Florida company is fitting her with a new prosthetic tail. And you can find all of these stories, plus much more online at

And don't forget, let's go back to our e-mail question of the day for a second. We're asking you, do you think Alec Baldwin should lose custody rights, yes or no? Why or why not? E-mail us at We're going to be reading your e-mail throughout the morning -- Betty and T.J.

NGUYEN: Thank you, Veronica.

HOLMES: Well, there is shock and grief, of course, after the Virginia Tech massacre, but something else follows the shootings, a renewed debate over gun control. Will the atrocity spark any changes?


NGUYEN: Plus this, politicians often get criticized for what they say. Why one presidential hopeful is defending something that he's sang.



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Working out at home can be quick and easy, but there are some things to keep in mind. Robert Dother (ph) is a personal trainer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make sure you warm up your muscles before you train in any environment, at home or in a professional environment.

COSTELLO: Adding push-ups, sit-ups, dips and crunches, all these exercises can work your arms, lower back, chest, and core abs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The old calisthenics have been around so long because they're effective.

COSTELLO: Work your biceps, triceps, and your shoulders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't have to have any equipment. You can just have a chair and your body weight.

COSTELLO: If you have lower back issues, start with some push- ups. This works on forearms, upper arms, chest, and helps you tone up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that's several exercises with no budget in mind other than your time. COSTELLO: Twenty minutes a day and you're off to a good start.

Carol Costello, CNN.




NGUYEN: That music written by Curtis Parks (ph) and Josh Kim (ph), performed by the band called The Season. Curtis is a Virginia Tech alumnus. Perhaps you've seen those shocking pictures. Seung Cho aiming handguns at the camera. Will that become the new poster for gun control? CNN's Candy Crowley checks the interest on Capitol Hill.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It began about three hours after the shooting stopped. First up, the anti-gun Brady Campaign. "It is long overdo for us to take some common sense actions to prevent tragedies like this." E-mail blasts went on into the evening. Gun Owners of America: "Gun bans are the problem, not the solution." The debate begins anew. "If everybody could have carried a gun, he could have been stopped".

LARRY PRATT, GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA: Nobody had a gun, and so the guy killed and killed and killed.

CROWLEY: If nobody had a gun, it wouldn't have happened.

KRISTEN RAND, VIOLENCE POLICY CENTER: Gun laws work. That's the dirty little secret the gun lobby doesn't want you to know.

CROWLEY: The last time Congress passed significant gun legislation, it banned anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from owning or buying a gun. It was 1996. Since then, Columbine High School, 15 dead. The Appalachian School of Law, three dead. Red Lake High School, eight dead. An Amish schoolhouse, six dead. And now Virginia Tech.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Clearly, we need to do more to keep our people safe from gun violence.

CROWLEY: Chances are slim legislation will happen, certainly not any time soon.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I hope there is not a rush to do anything. We need to take a deep breath.

CROWLEY: Gun rights are a part of the culture in southern and rural America, places where Democrats have not done well over the past decade.

DOUG HATTAWAY, FORMER GORE ADVISER: There are two businessmen sitting behind me talking about the election. So I sort of listened in, and I heard them say, you know, Gore is OK, but he'll take our guns away. And this was two businessmen talking about the election. I was like, oh, God, there goes the South.

CROWLEY: It has made many Democrats gun control shy. New York Representative Carolyn McCarthy ran for Congress to push for stricter gun laws after her husband was killed, her son was severely wounded by a gunman on a New York commuter train.

REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK: I have members that come up to me and say, Carolyn, I'd like to be with you, but I can't. I didn't come here to Congress to fight gun violence. I'll lose my re- election. And you know what? They probably would.

CROWLEY (on camera): Voters have been less interested in gun control over the past several years, in part because the crime rate is down. But some gun control advocates believe the Virginia Tech tragedy may rekindle public interest, and where the public goes, so go the politicians, sometimes.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: Senator John McCain says, "lighten up and get a life." That comment to people who wonder if his spur of the moment musical answer to an Iran question was insensitive. McCain was speaking to South Carolina veterans, one of whom asked in so many words if a military plan for Iran existed. And here is how the senator replied.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That old Beach Boys song, "Bomb Iran," bomb, bomb, bomb. Anyway.



HOLMES: All right. Well, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, well, he is setting the record straight. And he says he disagrees with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's remark that the Iraq War has been lost and the troop surge is not helping. Reid made that comment Thursday after nearly 200 people were killed in a series of Baghdad bombings. Reid also indicated he thought Gates shared his assessment.

CNN correspondents discuss the war of words between President Bush and congressional Democrats over the war and military readiness. Tom Foreman hosts "THIS WEEK AT WAR," that is tonight and tomorrow at 7:00 Eastern.

NGUYEN: T.J., a space tourist is finally headed back to Mother Earth. The latest on the Soyuz's return to Earth. That is going to happen any minute now.

HOLMES: Also, CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look at whether parents should be held accountable for overweight children. That's on "HOUSE CALL" starting just minutes from now at 8:30 eastern.


NGUYEN: Check this out. The humidity is up in south Georgia today, and that could help firefighters battling wildfires there. More than 25,000 acres near the town of Waycross already have burned, and nearly 20 homes have been destroyed. The largest fire is about 35 percent contained. More than 1,000 people were forced out of their homes. Another 5,000, mainly seniors, are being urged to leave because of all the smoke in the air.


HOLMES: And meanwhile, it's back to Earth for U.S. billionaire and space tourist Charles Simonyi. He is set to land in Kazakhstan in a Russian Soyuz capsule any minute now. Simonyi has spent two weeks aboard the International Space Station. The craft that he is on also bringing back a cosmonaut and an astronaut who spent seven months in orbit.

Simonyi, this was the most expensive two-week trip of his life, he paid $25 million for this little space vacation. His friend, Martha Stewart, you remember, she watched the launch in Kazakhstan earlier this month.

NGUYEN: Probably baked him some nice little treats for up in space.

HOLMES: I think that was part of the story, says she packed a nice little space lunch or whatever.

NGUYEN: Freeze-dried, of course.

HOLMES: Yes. Whatever she does. But Martha, I'm sure she could do it. But yes, they're expected back any time now.

NGUYEN: And we have also been getting a lot of responses to our e-mail question. Veronica De La Cruz is watching all of this.

What are people saying today, Veronica?

DE LA CRUZ: Wow, they've been saying all kinds of things.

NGUYEN: What is there not to say, right?

DE LA CRUZ: Exactly. And the question is, should Alec Baldwin lose custody rights completely? Yes, no, why or why not. Lots of e- mails on this topic, as you can imagine, Betty. This person, Bronwyn (ph), from Baltimore says: "I do believe that Alec should absolutely, undeniably, and equivocally (ph) be stripped of any custody rights to his daughter. He obviously has sever anger management issues that require intense in-patient treatment. Ireland can't protect herself, so it should be the job of the courts to do so."

And then we got this one from somebody in -- actually, this person remains anonymous. The person says: "I'd be interested in knowing what his 11-year-old said to make her dad so mad. Maybe he had a good reason to be so upset with her. And if he has always spoken to her in this manner, then she would probably expect it. It's not like he called her a vulgar name or anything and he didn't physically hit her, so no, I don't see any reason why he should lose parental custody rights over a moment of frustration and bad words."

And finally, this one from Louie who says: "Parenting class, yes, loss of custody, no. If that happens, then that will cause far more detriment to the child than Alec's harsh words."

So as you can see, they kind of run the gamut, Betty. A lot of people also saying, you know, it is kind of not our business. People should just mind their own beeswax. And unfortunately that is what happens when you are in the public eye. So we are going to be reading more of those e-mails is where you can send yours -- Betty.

NGUYEN: People are definitely opinionated on this one. And you know, people really weigh in on both sides. I have been talking about it a lot with folks here in the NEWSROOM. And you hear people who say, hey, look, my parents talked to me like that and even worse. So this is nothing. But then, I mean, it is kind of shocking. He did call her a thoughtless little pig.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes, you can't deny that. But it is sad.

NGUYEN: We'll hear more about it. Thank you.

HOLMES: All right. Also, what to do if your child's school comes under attack. We'll be talking about that in the next half hour.