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Tornadoes & Terror; Texas Wildfires; Iraq: Bloody Sunday; Moussaoui Trial: Death Ruled Out?; Former Bush Adviser Arrested

Aired March 13, 2006 - 23:00   ET


ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): ...quickly sees 54 tornadoes; 113 were reported yesterday, alone. Like this one in Sedalia, Missouri. Also in Pettis County, one tornado, reported to be half a mile wide. At University of Kansas, classes were canceled. The storm left the campus with downed trees, broken buildings, and shaken students.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never really think that you're going to be in the middle of a storm like this or tornado, if that's what it was.

MARCIANO: In addition to wind rain, thunder and lightning, the National Weather Service reports nearly 400 sightings of hail on Sunday alone -- some of them the size of baseballs.

One person died in Indiana, but Missouri saw the worst of it. Nine people are dead. To hear survivors tell it, it happened this time the way it often does.

DAVID WOMMACK, MISSOURI TORNADO VICTIM: I had the window open, listening for the storm and then the rain kind of quit. And then all of a sudden I heard this freight train sound and the crashing. And I told the wife, Maureen, I said, we need to head to the basement as soon as possible.

MARCIANO: The Wommacks made it to safety in the nick of time. Their home and their daughter's home across the street are severely damaged. So are their livelihoods.

MAUREEN WOMMACK, MISSOURI TORNADO VICTIM: It's a frightening scene. And you see that your business and everything is under debris. Our seven vehicles, five trailers, everything is under. Our one-ton dodge truck hooked up to a 33-foot fifth wheel is completely turned over. But the bottom line is, thank God we're all okay.

MARCIANO: The Starks live to the west of the Wommacks, in Randolph County.

LEE STARK, MISSOURI TORNADO VICTIM: I was scared. It was -- I said, well, the Lord's got plans for me.

MARCIANO: The county saw four deaths and a lot of destruction. Starks helped the county coroner, his father-in-law, recovering the bodies. STARKS: He asked if I would help him, you know, take care of the bodies, put them in bags and things. I mean, I miss them. They were good neighbors.

MARCIANO: It's tough to have to do that.


MARCIANO: People here are just picking up the pieces. Tornadoes don't usually happen this early in the year. May is usually the heaviest month. Warnings continued today, but cooler and dryer weather is ahead -- weather that tornadoes don't like.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Rob, how strong were these tornadoes?

MARCIANO, (on camera): Well, the strength of them is difficult to assess, but they do just that. They have teams of storm assessors or storm surveys that go out and they look at the damage both from the air and from the ground. And five of those teams were sent out today and there's now -- the reports are starting to come in.

We use a scale similar to hurricanes, an F1 to an F5, or F0 to F5, 5 being the strongest. And right now preliminary reports coming out are that the series of storms that moved through this area were anywhere from an F1 to an F3, which basically equates to 200 miles an hour on the top end. And that's certainly enough to do a tremendous amount of damage.

Here in Renick, it's just a town, population 221 people. Two people died today just down the road. But the tornado that ripped through here, about a quarter of a mile wide.

In some cases, other twisters that ripped through Missouri, were a half a mile wide. And one of them was as long as 20 miles. So, certainly intense.

It's a drier, definitely colder day today. And that's good because tomorrow we won't see a tornado. We had 81 degrees just a few days ago. Tonight's low, Anderson, will likely get down into the 20s. It is that incredible contrast in temperatures that spawn these killer storms.

And even though there's no official start to tornado season, we're certainly seeing an incredible outbreak here this early in the year. As we said, April, May and June really are the hot spots. So, we have a long, severe weather season to come, that's for sure.

COOPER: Yes, it certainly doesn't bode well. Rob, thanks very much. Rob Marciano reporting tonight.

COOPER: Now, the tornadoes caused so much damage across the Midwest, one mayor compared it to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The only way to really appreciate how hard some areas were hit, is really to see it from the air.

With that, here's CNN's David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): People on the ground describe the moment the tornado hit their homes as an explosion; and viewing the aftermath from the air, that's exactly what it looks like.

CLARK THOMAS, VETERAN MISSOURI PILOT: I've never seen it -- just a line of trees completely uprooted and laid on their sides.

MATTINGLY: Veteran Missouri Pilot Clark Thomas is our guide to an area outside the small town of Renick, where a tornado blasted through homes, killing four people.

THOMAS: Just a very strong storm, very isolated.

MATTINGLY: The damage and the violence it represents is jarring. Homes were torn in thousands of pieces. An old school bus was rolled upside-down. And a row of old hardwood trees was pulled out by the roots.

THOMAS: This tornado just stayed on the ground apparently for miles.

MATTINGLY: The scattered debris seems endless. Ponds filled up with pieces of lumber and siding. Tree lines and fences, wrapped with sheet metal. But the tornado didn't stop here.

Turning to the northeast, we find much more.

THOMAS: As we follow this storm's path, it is so easy to see where this tornado was heading. It was almost in a straight line going for miles. At times, the path of destruction is more than several football fields across. And at its worst points, there's not a single tree that wasn't left shredded, not a single building that wasn't left in pieces.

MATTINGLY: Six miles into the vast farming country, insulation fills the treetops.

Ten miles out, another home is destroyed.

Fifteen miles, to the town of Middle Grove, more of the same.

The winds from this tornado left little standing and this is one early spring storm that will be remembered for some time.


MATTINGLY (on camera): In all, it was a 20-mile path of destruction, Anderson, and there were very few gaps in there, suggesting that this tornado stayed very close or on the ground the entire time. COOPER: David Mattingly reporting tonight. Thanks very much, David.

In the Texas panhandle, enormous wildfires are causing similar terror. Bone dry weather and high winds are fueling the blazes which are being blamed for at least seven deaths right now. They've also destroyed nearly 700,000 acres. Nearly 2,000 people were evacuated over the weekend. And today, fire crews continue their battle.

Here's CNN's Ed Lavandera.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The west Texas wildfires have scorched so much land that it's like watching more than half of Rhode Island burn. The charred terrain stretches as far as the eye can see. Even weathered firefighters are amazed.

BRIAN LONGHOFER, FIREMAN: Biggest one I've ever seen.

LAVANDERA: Battling the blaze in the remote rugged terrain of the Texas panhandle can be a lonely job.

WADE BRUCE: It's coming up over the hill. Coming right at me.

LAVANDERA: Wade Bruce and a small group of firefighters are working along a ridge on the northern edge of Miami, a speck of a town along Highway 60. These men are all that stand between the town and the fire.

BRUCE: We come up here and tried to stop it right here because if it hops over this canyon, it goes down into the bottom. We can't fight it until it gets to the bottom. And by that time, you're pretty much in Miami.

LAVANDERA: Just in case, some residents have set sprinklers on rooftops. The high winds can instantly ignite a flame.

(On camera): We're standing on top of a ridge here, and all of a sudden we started hearing the crackling sound of a flame that just erupted from down there. You can't even see the flames anymore through the smoke, but this is something that firefighters are concerned about at this very moment because these fires, with the wind blowing behind it and coming up hill, they say that this is exactly the kind of situation that can really make these fires move very quickly.

(Voice-over): The firefighters extinguished these outbreaks, but the threat is not over. These fires have a mind of their own.

BRUCE: It's hard to fight because it branches off so much that you don't know which way to go.

LAVANDERA: The wildfires fanned out over a 1,000 square mile section of the panhandle that stretches from close to the Oklahoma state line, down past Interstate 40.

Seven people have died. Almost 2,000 people in seven counties had to be evacuated.

Some local officials suspect a spark from a power line might have started one of the fires, but there is still no official cause.

Wade Bruce and these firefighters have beat back the flames and the small town of Miami is still standing. But he's not convinced the battle is over. So he waits for the fire to try again.


COOPER: Ed, what is it that makes these wildfires so fast moving?

LAVANDERA (on camera): Well, you know, this -- the terrain out here is very different from what you see in wildfires in California, for example. You know, in California you have tall trees and essentially a lot of fuel that makes, you know, the fires much more intense as they kind of fire up the trees.

Here, there's nothing. It's very low-level brush and that sort of thing. So, it's very quick -- it burns very quickly. And the fire is kind of always constantly moving for something -- to find something else. So it spans over an area of quickly.

As we saw today, it was just in a matter of seconds where these flames lit up. Had the firefighters not been there, the fire would have been moving on to a new direction and looking for that new fuel.

COOPER: It is just terrible.

Ed Lavandera, thanks.

A deadly day in the U.S.; an even deadlier day in the Iraq. Dozens of people killed. More than 100 wounded. Roadside bombs, rocket attacks, drive-by shootings, a very bloody Sunday.

Also, what appears to be a huge break in the case of a murdered grad student. Why police believe they have their man. The question is, how strong is the evidence really? We'll take a realistic look.

And this...


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the allegations are true, something went wrong in Claude Allen's life.


COOPER: A former presidential adviser, in need of his own adviser and out of work. Why would a man with an important White House job shoplift from Target?

Claude Allen's fall from grace, coming up on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: President Bush gave a speech today at George Washington University, the first in a series of appearances the White House is hoping the will turn around a steep slide in support for the War in Iraq.

With the third anniversary of the war approaching, Mr. Bush's poll numbers are at a record low in the latest CNN/USA Today Gallup poll. Only 36 percent of those asked thought that President Bush was doing a good job; 60 percent disapproved of the way he's handling things. And just 38 percent said things are going well for the U.S. in Iraq; 60 percent said things are going poorly.

Not the poll numbers the White House would like to see, certainly. And days like yesterday in Iraq, certainly do not help.

Here's CNN's Aneesh Raman.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fires burned after at least six car bombs detonated in Baghdad's Sadr City, home to the capital's largest Shia community. Dozens killed. Over 200 wounded in an area where militia loyal to Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr patrol the streets and show their force, a force that has now come under attack.

In all, in Iraq Sunday, scores were killed by roadside bombs, rocket attacks and drive-by shootings. But the attack in Sadr City has devastating potential to infuriate the country's second largest Shia militia.

Security is no most important issue facing Iraq's government from the daily bombs to more dangerous tactics.

Sunday, a source with Royal Jordanian Airlines confirmed that explosives had been found near a plane that was about to take off Thursday for Amman.

The major security breach prompted the U.S. Embassy to issue this message that read in part, quote, "As a result of recent security incident at the Baghdad International Airport, the U.S. Embassy is prohibiting outgoing travel by all U.S. government employees on commercial airlines."

Royal Jordanian delayed Thursday's night by two hours to recheck passengers and luggage, but then the flight took off and they have continued operation since.

Attacks averted, attacks carried out -- both overshadowing the continuation of Saddam Hussein's trial. For the first time, defendants were brought in one by one to testify.

Sunday saw three of Saddam's co-defendants. Low-level Ba'ath party officials question the evidence that's been presented.

Saddam, himself, is set to testify late this week. (On camera): For their part, Iraq's current leader spent Sunday feverishly working to jumpstart a stalled political process, announcing that parliament will convene for the first time on Thursday, three days earlier than expected and just over three months after Iraqis voted them in.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Baghdad.


COOPER: Troubling times.

Not all murders are created equal. Some hit the front pages. Some seem to go straight to the cold case files. Coming up, murders that make news and why they make news.

All that ahead, but first Erica Hill, from "HEADLINE NEWS," has some of the other top stories tonight.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Anderson (An-drew-son).

We start off with another case of mad cow disease in the United States. Now, the cow in Alabama couldn't walk. And tests prove that it did suffer from mad cow disease. It was killed days ago, but officials say it never entered the food system. The brain wasting disease is very rare in humans, although it has been blamed for 150 deaths.

The Coast Guard, searching the waters of Narragansett Bay for three Rhode Island college students. Police say the students disappeared in a small rowboat in heavy fog. The rowboat was found empty.

A tough day at the office today for Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold. He introduced a resolution to censure President Bush, but really got nothing but trouble from Republicans and little support from Democrats in return. Senate leaders sent the resolution to committee, avoiding any vote for now.

And some prizes would seem to be worth running away from, but this Italian greyhound just couldn't run fast enough to escape in the 11th Annual Ugly Dog contest in San Diego. This is Victoria. There she is. Taking the crown from the late lamented Sam with a Chinese water crested hairless with a face, and a fan club that no one could forget. Poor Victoria, she's not that ugly.

COOPER: She's not that bad, Er-rica.

HILL: She's sweet.

COOPER: Er-rica.

HILL: Let's see, you know what, Anderson, it's a Monday and...

COOPER: No problem, Er-rica.

HILL: I did spring cleaning all weekend, so I still got a lot of dust going around in my head.

COOPER: Er-rica, thank you.

HILL: An-nerson.

COOPER: Coming up ahead, how could it happen? Is the U.S. government sabotaging its own case against al Qaeda Conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui? What happened could determine whether Moussaoui could face the death penalty or not. CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin is going to explain why the case is now on hold.

Plus, New York police say they've got the DNA match that links this barroom bouncer to the savage murder of a young student. What does his lawyer say? We will hear from him.

And last month, he was the president's top domestic adviser. Today, this guy stands accused of felony shoplifting. What else can go wrong for the White House?

You're watching 360.


COOPER: Those hoping to see al Qaeda Conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui put to death -- well, after today it might not happen. Under the law, Moussaoui can face execution after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to fly planes into the U.S. buildings. But today, in the penalty phase of this trial, the judge lashed out at the conduct of government officials, put the trial on hold, and said the death penalty may no longer be an option.

Helping us sort through all of this is Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. We spoke earlier.


COOPER: So this is actually confusing. What exactly happened? What did this government attorney do?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The government attorney represented some witnesses who were going to testify. The lawyer -- this lawyer, to prepare these witnesses for their testimony, gave them the government's opening statement and some of the testimony in the trial so far.

The judge had issued a very clear order, saying that witnesses in the case are not to see, read, or hear any of the testimony. So it was a flagrant, obvious violation of the Court's order.

COOPER: So is the death penalty off the table?

TOOBIN: Not yet. It probably, I think, will hang on at least by a thread for this in spite of this violation. But I mean this judge is really angry. But given the magnitude of the crime, given the millions of dollars that have been spent, the four years that have been invested in this trial, I think the judge can fashion another remedy, rather than throwing the case out.

COOPER: But, I mean, how does something like this happen?

TOOBIN: You know, good question. I don't really know. But, I mean, what happens in a case like this is it's so big, it's so sprawling, the prosecutors who are trying the case don't control all the lawyers in the U.S. government.

COOPER: Right, that's what the prosecutor basically said to the judge, look, we can't control this.

TOOBIN: Right, but I mean, when you're in front of the judge, you have to sort of take, you know, you have to take responsibility. But it is true that the Homeland Security lawyer who screwed this thing up is not under the direct control of the assistant U.S. attorneys trying the case.

But -- and this person has been fired -- I mean fired from the case. I don't know about fired from the government.

But, you know, when you have a big case, not all the lawyers get the message, I guess, and something like this happens.

COOPER: So what happens? What happens next?

TOOBIN: Well, it could be that Judge Brinkema tomorrow will say simply the taint is too great. I'm not going to allow it.

I think the more likely scenario is that the judge will say, look I am going to let these witnesses testify, but I am going to give the defense attorneys free rein to cross-examine them about what they were given, and to show the jury that this mistake was made. Basically, air the controversy for the jury, embarrass the government, but don't throw the case out. I think that's the best the government can hope for here. And frankly, I think that's the best they should hope for.

COOPER: But then on appeal, I mean, does this raise all sorts of...

TOOBIN: Well, it does. I mean, you know, this is not just a conviction/acquittal issue. This is a death penalty case. As we keep saying, the only issue here is whether Moussaoui gets the death penalty. He's going to spend the rest of his life in jail.

But appeals courts tend to look at death penalty cases a lot more carefully. And whenever there are any sort of mistakes in front of -- in those kind of cases, they're very reluctant to give the death penalty -- especially in a case where he didn't even pull the trigger.

COOPER: It's amazing.

TOOBIN: He was in jail.

COOPER: It's amazing that this can be derailed to this point. Jeff Toobin, thanks.

TOOBIN: All right.


COOPER: An ex-White House aide allegedly involved in a high ticket shoplifting case. As if the administration doesn't have enough problems. The former top domestic adviser, this guy stands charged with a felony. We'll have the details, plus this...


LAWRENCE KOBILINSKY, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: This is an absolute identification. There is no question that that blood on the plastic tie is from Mr. Littlejohn.


COOPER: Well, that's one point of view. What does Littlejohn's attorney say? We'll have the latest in the much talked about New York student murder case, when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, his biography is still on the White House website, which is kind of odd because he's no longer on the payroll. As one of the president's senior aides, Claude Allen was advising his boss on what to do. Now he's the one who needs advising -- and from a defense attorney after police say they busted him in a shoplifting scheme. That is surprising a lot of people -- especially the president.

CNN's Joe Johns investigates.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was no run of the mill shoplifting arrest. Claude Allen, once a rising star in Republican politics, said to be deeply religious, true conservative, 45 years old, married, a father of four, a high-ranking adviser to President Bush who three years ago nominated him to be a federal appeals court judge. So Allen's background has been cleared by federal investigators over and over again.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: He is someone who has gone through a number of background checks. His background has been investigated.

JOHNS: In other words, there was no hint of suspicion about him. So when the president's adviser on domestic policy recently and suddenly quit his job, citing long work hours and the desire to spend more time with his family, it raised questions.

And now he got from there to here, this mug shot, is spelled out in police records. In January, Claude Allen walks into a Target store in suburban Maryland and quickly becomes a suspect in a common scam known as refund fraud.

Police say he was observed taking items and putting them in the cart, then he went to the returns counter and police say he produced a receipt, supposedly for the items he had just taken off the shelves.

He was arrested after he left the store. Police say it wasn't the first time he stole from Target. But he had been collecting fraudulent refunds from Target and another department store chain, to the tune of $5,000 going back to last October.

In all, police say, they believe Allen has conducted more than two dozen of these types of refunds, having the money credited to his credit cards.

LT. ERIC BURNETT, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: Our detective that followed it up, there were as many as 25 cases. There is some videotape on some of the cases.

JOHNS: Police, who waited until last week to lodge the charges against Allen, say surveillance tapes document Allen's alleged crimes. But Allen's lawyer says it was a big misunderstanding.

MALLON SNYDER, ATTORNEY: Mr. Allen intends to establish that this is all a mistake, that nothing has been done that was inappropriate; that we think when we have the opportunity to meet with the Target officials and explain with the receipts and show what happened, that they're going to understand it is confusion and misunderstanding and that matter should be resolved.

JOHNS: The store is in an upscale suburb of Washington, D.C., the kind of place where it's easy to find customers who are well off. That by all accounts is what Claude Allen was, well off. A government lawyer with a six-figure salary and an expensive home.

Real estate records show Allen bought the house for nearly a million dollars last October, about the same time police say he allegedly started stealing. One question is whether he needed the money. Allen made about $161,000 a year before he quit his job.

In April 2003, on a financial statement provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee, he then listed his net worth at $167,000 and listed his wife as a homemaker.

For somebody with Allen's former income and four kids, the question is, did all of that, plus the new house, stretch him too thin?

DR. ALAN LIPMAN, WASHINGTON PSYCHIATRIST: It's possible that, you know, someone like this who needs to aspire, aspire, aspire, try to reach the highest levels in life and feels a lot of stress about it, can get themselves into bit of financial trouble. And while we don't know that that was the case here, it's often the case in situations like this that people's identity gets ahead of their financial means until somehow they need to feel some way that they can catch up.

JOHNS: In January before quitting his job, the White House says Allen told White House Counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff Andy Card there had been a mix-up. MCCLELLAN: The way he explained it to Harriet was that he was returning some merchandise and there was some confusion with some credit cards because he had moved a number of times.

JOHNS: If it was a mix-up, it's one that police say apparently happened many times. Claude Allen's next court date is scheduled in two weeks.

Joe Johns, CNN, Gaithersburg, Maryland.


COOPER: It is such a strange case. A lot of you may be wondering tonight, why would someone like Claude Allen who makes six figures a year, allegedly shoplift at a Target store? The motive may be murky, but what is clear is that shoplifting is everywhere.

One in 11 Americans will do it during their lifetime, say some experts. And it's a crime that cost store owners $10 billion a year.

Peter Berlin is the founder of the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention. He joined me earlier.


COOPER: Peter, if these charges are true, it is such -- I think it's a hard thing for a lot of people to understand. Why would a rising political star in the Bush White House, a guy who makes over $160,000 a year, resort to shoplifting?

PETER BERLIN, FOUNDER, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SHOPLIFTING PREVENTION: When you look at what he took, he took items worth hundreds of dollars and took items worth $2.50. So that obviously tells you immediately, he's not a professional thief. And his actions were not based on criminal intent, but rather the result of psychological and social problems.

COOPER: What pushes someone into doing something like this? I mean, if these charges are true, what is it that makes someone act out in such an odd fashion?

BERLIN: Well, what it is, what they're really doing is simply getting something for nothing. And by getting something for nothing has a meaning for them. They've attached a meaning to it. It doesn't really have a meaning. It has a meaning for them that it doesn't have for you and I.

And that meaning can be a substitute for loss in their life, whether it be the death of a loved one or a divorce of situation or the loss of income or the loss of health. It can be a relief mechanism for anxiety and depression. It can be a payback for all that they do for others and how little they get back in return. It's a form of self-nourishment at a time in their lives when they feel they need or deserve it. It's not legitimate in the sense that, you know, it's OK, but it certainly is something that is temporarily nourishing for them. COOPER: Is there a profile of a person who shoplifts?

BERLIN: There is no profile of a shoplifter. They're young, they're old, they're educated, they're not, they are richer or poorer. There's no profile. And the reason there's no profile is -- really that gives you the clue as to why people are doing this. The reason they're doing it is because they're having difficulty in coping with their life.

Now, you and I and everyone has frustration, anxiety, depression at different times in our lives, and all these kinds of stress of different types. But you and I work at it at a different way. We handle it in a different way. Some people wind up shoplifting. Not intentionally. And some people wind up overeating. Others wind up drinking. Others wind up taking drugs. Some wind up gambling to get the high they need at a particular time. Some are bulimic, anorexic.

COOPER: So really it's about going to therapy, seeking out some sort of help, admitting you have a problem.

BERLIN: Well, seeking out some sort of help because there are a lot of hidden things that are going on that they would never connect with each other. However, it may not take long-term therapy. It may be very quick. Once a person realizes that they're self destructing, they -- and they certainly don't want to do that. Nobody wants to make their life any harder than it already is. They're going to be able to connect what they're doing with what's going on in their lives and the only way they're going to help that is to fix what's going on in their lives. If they can't fix it physically, they're going to fix it by attitude.

COOPER: We'll be following it.

From shoplifting, now to murder. New evidence that police say connects as bouncer with a dark and violent past to the abduction, rape and murder of a woman with a bright future ahead of her.

Also, why do certain crimes have the power to move millions of people and make headlines, whereas other crimes just get forgotten? Some answers when 360 continues.


COOPER: Imette St. Guillen, police here in New York now say they they've got compelling evidence connecting the barroom bouncer to the murder of this promising young woman who spent her final hours at his bar.

A DNA match between Bouncer Darryl Littlejohn and blood found on plastic ties that were used to bind her wrists. Now a grand jury is hearing the case. In a moment we'll hear what Mr. Littlejohn's attorney has to say about it all.

First, CNN's Rick Sanchez with the investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Littlejohn is the prime suspect in this case.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two weeks after the murder of Imette St. Guillen, New York City Police now say they have their man -- this man, 41-year-old Darryl Littlejohn.

It all started here at The Falls bar in SoHo, in the early morning hours of February 25th. It was closing time, 4:00 a.m. Littlejohn told police he saw Imette leave the bar on her own.

A week later, though, police say the bar's manager admitted, he asked Littlejohn to escort Imette out.

(On camera): And now for the very first time police are saying they know of people who were here in this general vicinity and saw Imette leaving with Littlejohn about 4:00 in the morning.

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: There are witnesses that put the victim in the company of Mr. Littlejohn when she left the bar that evening.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Police are investigating to see whether Littlejohn brought Imette here, to his home in Queens. They've searched the house and carried out countless bags of possible evidence. How much physical evidence is there? Experts close to the case say they may have only scratched the surface.

LAWRENCE KOBILINSKY, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: We have the sock that was forced down Imette's throat. We have the carpet fibers that are present on the tape that covers Imette's mouth. We have shoelaces that were presumably handled by the assailant. There may be other trace evidence, perhaps in the form of saliva or semen on or in the body that really has not been revealed as yet.

SANCHEZ: Police also confiscated this van which was parked near Littlejohn's house. They say it may have been used to transport Imette's body to the place where she was found just one day after she left The Falls.

(On camera): That's the Brooklyn Bridge, which leads you to the very place where Imette's body was found.

Did Littlejohn end up in that same area where they found her body on the same night they found her body? Police are saying they suspect yes and the reason they say so is they've traced his cell phone.

KELLY: There is evidence -- telephone evidence, telephone records that put the telephone that Mr. Littlejohn had in his possession in the vicinity, the immediate vicinity of where the body was located and also a route to that location.

SANCHEZ: But the most damaging evidence so far according to police involves Littlejohn's own blood and one of these. This is a plastic tie that's often used by police as a makeshift handcuff. Police are saying the murderer used one of these to tie Imette's hands behind her back. KELLY: Darryl Littlejohn's blood was found on plastic ties that were used to bind Imette's hands behind her back. And a DNA match to Littlejohn was made.

KOBILINSKY: When you get a match, it is not a maybe, it is not a guess perhaps one in 100 people would have such a genetic profile. No, it's one in trillions. This is an absolute identification. There is no question that that blood on the plastic tie is from Mr. Littlejohn.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Long odds and odds that may only get worse for Darryl Littlejohn if more of the evidence now being tested in place labs ties him even more closely to Imette St. Guillen's murder.

Rick Sanchez, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Needless to say, Mr. Littlejohn's lawyer takes issue with the evidence against his client and how it was gathered. We spoke with him earlier in the program.


COOPER: You talked to your client today. How is he?

KEVIN O'DONNELL, ATTORNEY FOR DARRYL LITTLEJOHN: He's very concerned about the new allegations, Anderson. His concern is that he's not being treated fairly. He's had the same concern since the beginning of the case where he was implicated in the murder.

COOPER: He thinks he's being railroaded by the system and also by the media?

O'DONNELL: He's definitely being railroaded by the media, but the cause of that are the police leaks.

COOPER: And you're saying the police are selectively leaking damning information, leaving out other things?

O'DONNELL: Well, I believe so. We're not hearing anything about when they strip searched him. From what I heard, there was blood found on these handcuffs. The police did search him -- they strip searched him, they strip searched everybody else in the bar, but they didn't find any cut whatsoever on Mr. Littlejohn.

COOPER: But the police now have said, I mean, you heard Ray Kelly say that, you know, there's a trillion to one chance that the blood on these cuffs is not Darryl Littlejohn's, that by all statistical measurements, that is his blood on these cuffs. How can you defend against that?

O'DONNELL: Well, I heard that, too, Anderson, but the timing of that release concerns me. First of all, why did it take two weeks to come to that conclusion? What were they doing for those two weeks? I would guess that one of the first items that they looked at to examine for DNA would have been those flex cuffs.

COOPER: So you're saying they could have had the DNA evidence faster?

O'DONNELL: They should have had it. It's my understanding that that result could come back in 24 hours. Now, what I want to know is where the evidence was taken. Who took it? What was done with it once it was taken? Who examined it? What's the chain of custody? Did it need to be retested? If it did, why did it need to be retested?

COOPER: So you're going to be looking at things like chain of custody. You're going to be basically putting the police department on trial?

O'DONNELL: No, I'm going to enforce my client's rights. This is about due process. And because of all these leaks by the media, leaks into the media by the police department, my client's right to a fair trial has been violated.

COOPER: It's not your client's obligation or your obligation to prove your client's innocence, it's the prosecution's obligation to prove your client's guilt. Does your client have an alibi for the timeframe that Imette St. Guillen was missing and then found?

O'DONNELL: No, I'm not going to get into any kind of defense right now, Anderson. There's a 30,000 member police force that are gathering evidence against my client and there's only one person representing him and that's me. And my job is to defend him and question the evidence and put the people to their burden of proving his case beyond a reasonable doubt. And I'm going to treat this case like I treat every other case.

COOPER: Why are you taking this case? I mean, you -- this is not -- you were court-appointed for this police lineup last week. You didn't have to take this case.

O'DONNELL: No, it was my choice. But I believe as a officer of the court and as a defense attorney, that people who are charged, especially people who are in financial situations like my client, deserve proper representation. I believe I can give him that.

COOPER: What is he like? I mean, what kind of guy is he?

O'DONNELL: Believe it or not, Anderson, our conversations have been incredibly cordial. He's been very cooperative with us. He understands that right now I'm the person that's between him and the entire country that's portrayed him to be a monster.

Now, I can understand why people are saying that he's a career criminal, his record speaks for itself. However, to me, he's my client.

COOPER: And to you it is significant that in his past criminal behavior, which there is plenty of, there is not a killing, there is not a violence against women. To you, that's very significant. O'DONNELL: He's never been accused of as much as pushing a woman. And that is significant. I think it's unusual for somebody with this type of modus operandi, to start at the age 42 to go from robberies and drug related convictions, all of a sudden to violence against women.


COOPER: Well, over the weekend, a 60-year-old man was shot to death in Oklahoma. And in Ohio, a husband and wife were killed in their home. Chances are, you didn't hear about it though. It seems there's only one murder case that's making the news these days, the killing of Imette St. Guillen.

The question is why? Why out of thousand of homicides committed in the U.S. each year, why does the media focus on just a handful of them? Sometimes it's the sheer brutality, as in this case. Sometimes as CNN's Tom Foreman reports, it's something else.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Natalee Holloway, Lori Hacking, Taylor Beal (ph), the list goes on and on. When pretty white females are killed or disappear, media storms follow. So much so that critics have coined a phrase for it.

SHERI PARKS, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Like everybody else, I call it the missing white woman syndrome.

FOREMAN: And Professor of American Studies Sheri Parks says it serves a purpose, uniting people to save a soul, reaffirming the community's will to fight crime.

PARKS: And since we can't solve all the problems, since we can't save all the women, this woman become a symbol. That's what happens. This woman becomes a symbol. And if we save her, for a few days, we're okay.

FOREMAN (on camera): So if that focuses public effort and police effort and somebody gets helped, what's wrong with that?

PARK: Well, what's wrong with that is that we don't care for everybody in the same way.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Think about California. When Laci Peterson, pregnant and beautiful disappeared, a frenzy of national media coverage followed. It went on through the discovery of her body, the arrest, trial and conviction of her husband.

SHARON ROCHA, LACI PETERSON'S MOTHER: I love my daughter so much. I miss her every minute of every day.

FOREMAN: But near Philadelphia, when Latoyia Figueroa, pregnant, beautiful, and black, disappeared last year, the case was barely noticed by the national media, despite all the efforts of family and friends to draw coverage. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not looking for a dead body, I'm looking for Latoya. She's alive. She's out there somewhere. She needs our help. She's coming home.

FOREMAN: Figueroa was found dead. Her ex-boyfriend charged with murder. But that didn't make much news, either. The Holloway case in Aruba dominated TV that summer.

(On camera): Still, this tendency to cover the murders of white women more than others is not necessarily all about pandering. The simple fact is, it is still comparatively rare for white women to be killed. And therefore, by definition, it could be called newsworthy.

(Voice-over): And that's what the debate comes down to. Media defenders say after all, for each white woman who is murdered, 26 black men are killed. And media critics say, yes, that is exactly the point.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, more severe weather hitting parts of the U.S. The latest from the CNN Weather Center in just a moment, but first, Ms. Er-rica Hill from "HEADLINE NEWS," joins us with some of the business stories we're following -- Er-rica.

HILL: Anderson, don't make it sound like I was drunk. I mean, I just stumbled a little bit.

Anderson, another gas fuel travel price hike -- we're actually talking about low-cost carrier Southwest raising fares today by up to 10 bucks a ticket. And they say it's going to help pay for -- yes, you guessed it, higher fuel costs. Northwest, American, United and Delta, all doing the same.

And also from Delta today, on the business front, a warning -- pilot pension plans may soon be grounded to save money. Delta said it is in a quote, "race against time to restructure." United Airlines and U.S. Airways have already terminated their pilot pension plans. And Northwest Airlines could do the same.

Lockheed Martin Corporation, though, still flying high with its new F-22 Raptor series of fighter jets, the Air Force announced today a new $383 million contract for Lockheed to do more work on the newest generation of radar-evading fighter. The Raptor was developed to replace the F-15 as America's top gun in the sky.

And for something really out of this world, how about a tour of the red planet? Today Google launched its newest map site, Google Mars. It was created with images from the Mars odyssey and NASA's Mars global surveyor.

An-erson, back to you.

COOPER: I think we have the tape. Do we have the tape? Let's play the tape.

HILL: Oh great, we have the tape.


HILL: Hey, An-drew-son, we start off with -- Hey, An-drew-son, we start off -- Hey, An-drew-son, we start off -- Hey, An-drew-son, we start off -- Hey, An-drew-son, we start off -- Hey, An-drew-son, we start off -- Hey, An-drew-son, we start off -- Hey, An-drew-son, we start off


COOPER: I like that.

HILL: That's good stuff. The loop is really fantastic. I'm looking forward to hearing a lot more of that in the future.

COOPER: Oh yes, we're going to be playing it quite a lot, I think.

HILL: Oh, I'll get you, my pretty.

COOPER: Erica, thanks.

Tornado Alley turned deadly over the weekend. And tonight, in another part of the U.S., more storms have hit. We're going to have the latest in a live report from the CNN Weather Center, coming up next on 360.


COOPER: A brutal day of tornadoes, 10 dead, as many as 113 twisters reported yesterday. More tornadoes tonight in Alabama, and a monster line of weather moving through the south. Tracking it all for us, CNN's Jacqui Jeras. She's with us in the Weather Center in Atlanta -- Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, the last few hours have been extremely intense, especially in northern and central parts of Alabama.

Good news to report tonight is that the severe weather threat has diminished and we're not expecting to see pictures like this one from yesterday. We had a number of super cells, quite an outbreak for so early in this season.

Normally we get maybe 50 tornadoes in the month of March and yesterday alone we had more than 100 reports, many of which happened in the state of Missouri. And look at those pictures -- extremely devastating. We're still getting the reports in.

The crews have been out assessing the damage, and they've determined that a few of the tornadoes mostly were between F1 and F3, so no greater than 200 miles per hour. I want to show you the latest radar picture now and talk a little bit more about what's been going on here tonight. There you can see those watches expired oh about a half an hour early. The daytime heating is now out of here, but we are concerned about the threat of some hail in these isolated storms across central and southern parts of Alabama, and that's going to be heading through the Atlanta metro area as we move through the overnight.

There's also going to be a lot of lightning with these storms. This is the three-hour loop, and look at the clusters -- especially up here into eastern parts of Tennessee. That's the lighter colors that you see, the more recent those lightning strikes are.

Forecast for tomorrow, we'll show you the front sweeps way out into the Atlantic. You could still see some rain, especially in the morning hours for places like New York City, down into Washington, D.C., into the Carolinas, but we think that severe threat will be out of here -- but one more thing, Anderson, you're going to have to deal with, even though the storm will pull out, no longer will we see severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, we're going to have incredible winds, as strong as 40, maybe 50 miles per hour. So if you're trying to travel across the East Coast tomorrow, take your patience with you.

COOPER: All right. Let's prepare for some extra time. Jacqui, thanks.

"On the Radar" tonight, Barbara Starr is reporting on the stepped up and expensive new effort to fight improvised explosive devices, IEDs, in Iraq.

A lot of feedback on the blog, more than a fair share of heat, by the sound of some of the e-mails.

Jim from Encino, California writes, "What nobody wants to mention is that a whole lot of those IEDs are made out of artillery shells that WE didn't have enough troops on the ground to guard at the beginning of the conflict. It makes me sick!!

Bob in Washington, D.C., says, "Unfortunately the IEDs and the insurgents have much in common. They are hard to detect, can know up anywhere, and change to meet new circumstances."

Steve in Atlanta offers this, "3 other words" other than improvised explosive device that is, "that didn't help much either: 'Bring it on.'"

And Rachel in Albuquerque, has a variation on that, "Boy," she writes, "and I thought the 3 little words were 3 little letters...WMD. Now just another 3 letters to remember. My little American, self- righteous mind can't hold it all in."

More of 360 in a moment. Stay with us.


COOPER: "LARRY KING" is next with more on the Imette St. Guillen murder suspect. Plus, Tammy Fay Messner on her battle with cancer.

Thanks for watching. I'll see you tomorrow.


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