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Details Emerge in Missouri Kidnapping Case; Interview With Father of Elizabeth Smart; Who Is Barack Obama?

Aired January 16, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
The search for Ben Ownby and Shawn Hornbeck is over, but the mystery is only beginning. Tonight, we're getting new details about what happened to both boys and what happens now, details about the abduction, the innocence lost, and why Shawn, who disappeared more than four years ago, never left the suspect's home.

While the alleged kidnapper isn't talking, his lawyers are. And they will join us in just a moment.

But, first, we want to get the latest on the investigation, new details of the ordeal, and the boy whose tip to the police gave two families their sons back.

CNN's Jonathan Freed has the latest.


JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Both Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby were found at Michael Devlin's apartment on Friday. But, for now, Devlin is charged only with kidnapping 13-year- old Ownby, who disappeared on Monday of last week.

GARY TOELKE, FRANKLIN COUNTY, MISSOURI, SHERIFF: We have a lot of -- a lot of things to do in the investigation. There's still a lot of leads to be followed up. And we're still going after this thing hot and heavy.

FREED: Devlin is set to make a court appearance in the Ownby case on Thursday. But there could be other charges. The sheriff in nearby Washington County, where Hornbeck was kidnapped four years ago, has scheduled a news conference for tomorrow.

Devlin will make his first court appearance by closed-circuit television from a detention center two miles away. While the practice is common, the sheriff says she's he's thinking about security, and wants to avoid transporting a suspect in such a high-profile case. Ownby's family came before the cameras, without their son, to appeal for privacy.

DORIS OWNBY, MOTHER OF BEN OWNBY: Ben's doing fine. We decided not to bring him here today. We think that he needs to get back to normal. We're going to try and get him ready to go back to school.

FREED: And, at a local high school, it was a day to honor a young hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would hope, Mitchell, that, as you grow older, that you would consider law enforcement as a career option.



FREED: Mitchell Hults is the teenager who gave police a description of a white truck he saw speeding away from the area where Ownby was last seen. Investigators say that clue was the key that led investigators to Devlin and the return of both boys to their families.


COOPER: Jonathan, what is the latest on the timing of any federal charges?

FREED: The FBI, Anderson, is telling us that they're not quite ready to go there yet.

They say there's a lot of coordinating that needs to be done with the other investigating agencies. On the ground here, though, people are looking to Washington County to be the next to go.

COOPER: So, when -- Washington County, what, will talk to him next week or -- or this week, do we know, about -- about Shawn Hornbeck?

FREED: Well, what we're hearing now is that the sheriff in Washington county is going to be holding a news conference tomorrow.

Now, investigators have been saying from the beginning that we should look to charges to come in the Hornbeck case, of course, from Washington County, because that's where the abduction happened. We have not really heard much from Washington County, until now.

Now this news conference is on -- is on deck. So, everybody's looking to that quite eagerly tomorrow to see if those next charges that have been anticipated will actually come forward.

COOPER: All right, Jonathan Freed, thanks.

Tonight, Michael Devlin is in a jail cell. He will be arraigned on Thursday, as Jonathan said. More charges are expected.

He had no criminal history, but police say it is clear he was leading a double life. He's not talking. His attorneys are.

Joining us from Saint Louis is one of Devlin's defense attorneys, Ethan Corlija.

Ethan, appreciate you being with us.


COOPER: How is your client doing right now?

CORLIJA: Anderson, I think he's doing fine. He -- we met -- Mike and I both met with him yesterday in the Franklin County Detention Center, and we discussed -- we had an extensive conversation with him.

I think his spirits are good. Of course, he is nervous. But he remains articulate and very forthcoming with -- with his defense team.

COOPER: He's scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday. Is he going to plead not guilty?

CORLIJA: At this time, we do anticipate and we fully expect that he will enter a plea of not guilty; that is correct.

COOPER: He's being held on $1 million bail. Can he make that? Can he pay that?

CORLIJA: I don't have any comment as far as whether or not he can make it.

I -- I will say that we, Mike and I, are considering, in the not- too-distant future, a bond reduction. But that really, at this time, is -- is very premature to even make a solid decision on that.

COOPER: I should point out, Mike is -- is the other attorney who is representing Michael Devlin, just so -- so you know.

Is your client, Ethan, aware of how much attention this story is getting?

CORLIJA: Yes, we're -- we're very aware.


COOPER: Is your client aware? I'm sorry.

CORLIJA: Oh, yes, he is, too. We have informed him that it has made the national media, and that it's getting quite a bit of press.

And that's kind of the farthest thing from our mind when we deal with him. We really -- when we meet with him, we stick to the legal issues. We stick to what is relevant to the case, what will be relevant to his defense. So, we don't really talk a lot about the media hype surrounding the case when we're with him.

COOPER: Obviously, you're not going to tell what your defense is at this point. You're not going to talk about what you guys have talked about.

But is it fair to say that he has -- I mean, do you feel you have all the information from him to represent him at this point? Has he told you how he saw things?

CORLIJA: Well, Anderson, he's been very forthcoming with us. But there is a lot of detailed information that we still would like to discuss with him.

And, quite frankly, we go over minute details over and over and over again. So, I think he's forthcoming, and I think we have a very solid and good understanding of what is in front of us, and what's confronting him. But, I mean, it's a long way from -- from understanding everything from a defense strategy standpoint.

COOPER: We have, in the last couple of days, heard really of -- of two different Michael Devlins. The didn't folks who he has worked with for years describe a quiet guy, somebody who, you know, they never really thought much about, never raised any eyebrows.

We have heard from some neighbors who had sort of a different opinion. They had heard arguments. They had -- they had -- in one case, he had called the police on -- on one of his neighbors for a parking spot.

Do you -- can you say what Michael Devlin, what your impression is of him?

CORLIJA: Well, I would tend to agree with -- with the first description of him. I think he is a relatively quiet person. He's rather introverted.

But, you know, he enjoys, obviously, the company of people, his family. He -- he enjoys the company of his family. I can tell you that much. And, also, when Mike and I, my co-counsel, meet with him, he's -- he's, you know, very happy to share things with us, and very happy to discuss certain things with us.

So, I think the general description that he is quiet and that he's kind of, you know, not someone who -- who is looking for a lot of attention in his normal day-to-day activity, is a pretty accurate description.

COOPER: Devlin's family released a statement. And I want just part of what -- they said: "Just as we are relieved both Ben and Shawn are now safe, we hope Michael will be safe as the facts of his case are revealed."

The statement doesn't say that they think their -- that they think Michael Devlin, their son, their brother, is innocent. Do -- do you know, does the family believe that?

CORLIJA: No, I don't -- I don't think that -- well, they're going to stand behind their son. That's for sure.

I think they, too, are very anxious to see what the facts are. They, too, are -- are not going to rush to judgment, make any prejudgments as to guilt or innocence. They're anxious to see, when all the facts are revealed, what our position is going to be. And I think we have -- Mike and I, my co-counsel, have talked to the family extensively. We have kept them very informed.

But I think, most of all, they are concerned. And they are elated, actually, that both Shawn and Ben were safely recovered, reunited with their family. And this is a close-knit family that sticks by one another. And they -- like all compassionate people, they were very, very happy to see that these two young men were reunited with their loved ones.

COOPER: And...




KIELTY: ... it's a shock to any criminal defendant, especially their family, when these things happen. A family doesn't choose to have one of their loved ones, a son, a brother, an uncle, charged with such heinous crimes.

And, you know, a lot of times, it is a rush to judgment. It is a mob -- a mob mentality. And we're here to preserve his rights and to protect the integrity of the court system. And, as -- as the facts come out, you know, they will. But we are not privy to them yet.

COOPER: Want to clear up just two things. There have been reports that -- that Devlin actually confessed to abducting Ben Ownby.

Can you confirm that? Is there any truth to that?

KIELTY: We can't even comment on that.


There were also -- there's another report that is out there -- and, again, just want to try it clear it up, if you can -- that child pornography was found on your client's computer. Do you know...


CORLIJA: ... not going to comment on that, Anderson. We're not going to comment on that.

KIELTY: We can't comment on that.

Moreover, today, we filed our initial motions. We filed our first request for discovery. We haven't gotten any evidence whatsoever from either Franklin County, Washington County, Saint Louis County, much less the federal government.

COOPER: So -- so, at this point, you haven't even seen any evidence that may be against your client?

CORLIJA: That's true. We're -- we're quite constricted in what we were able to do so far.

And that is due to the fact that we haven't seen any evidence. I think, once we see it, we will take a very, very thorough look at it. We will review it. And Mike and I will then discuss our strategy further.

I mean, what we know is what our client has told us, what his family has told us. Beyond that, there's been no empirical evidence that's been shared with us, or any investigative evidence that has been shared with us at all.

COOPER: Ethan Corlija and Michael Kielty, gentlemen, appreciate you joining us. Thanks.

CORLIJA: Thank you, Anderson.

KIELTY: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: About 50 miles from Devlin's home is the town of Richwoods, Missouri. It is Shawn's hometown, the town he was last seen in, and the community that really never gave up hope of finding him.

CNN's David Mattingly is there.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): MATTINGLY: In 2002, Shawn Hornbeck was a smiling 11-year-old boy growing up in a small town 20 miles from the nearest interstate, just a regular kid, who liked SpongeBob and PlayStation.

But, when he disappeared, riding his bike on an October Sunday afternoon, Shawn became a symbol of every parent's worst fear.


PAM AKERS, MOTHER: That is what is killing us, not knowing anything at all.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As time goes on, it's just -- you know, it just gets scary, and -- just want him to come home.


MATTINGLY: Richwoods, Missouri, resident Wayne Evans joined the search at the very beginning. The town was turned upside down. Then, Evan says, attention turned to these nearby woods.

WAYNE EVANS, SEARCHER: With kids -- there's a lot of caves around here. And there's a lot of things that a -- that a child could explore.

MATTINGLY: In just the first few days, help was abundant, and so was hope. Former fire chief Rose Hoffman remembers believing Shawn would be found quickly, and found alive. ROSE HOFFMAN, FORMER FIRE CHIEF: We have had missing kids before, where they were lost in the woods, you know, something like that. And we always found them.

MATTINGLY: But, this time, the search was fruitless. Shawn vanished without leaving a single clue.


AKERS: At this point, I -- I'm clueless. I -- I wish I had the answers, but I don't. I -- THIS is totally out of the, you know, ordinary for him. He's never been late. He's scared of the dark.


MATTINGLY: The news media carried the heartbreaking emotions throughout the state and beyond. It wasn't unusual for volunteers to field 200 calls a day. None of it helped find Shawn.

(on camera): But, when the crowds and cameras went away, this town continued its search. Even though they had nothing to go on, they treated every theory as if it were believable, no matter how unbelievable or how dreadful it may have sounded.

(voice-over): One popular theory had Shawn murdered in the woods by operators of secret meth labs. Another suggested he was hit by a car, then taken away by a panicked hit-and-run driver. None of the theories included the idea that Shawn was still alive.

(on camera): At any point did you start to despair?

EVANS: You know, the stories out here, from the day he disappeared until recently, have just been the most horrendous things that people could even imagine. I couldn't even imagine the things that people -- that called in with. So, after a while, you hear so many stories, that you just assume the worst.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And it would be years before the news finally got better.

David Mattingly, CNN, Richwoods, Missouri.


COOPER: Well, Ben Ownby and Shawn Hornbeck were kidnapped by a stranger. That's the least common type of child abduction.

Here's the "Raw Data," according to one study of 12 states.

Just 12 -- 24 percent -- excuse me -- 24 percent of the child abductions reported were committed by strangers. Ninety-five percent of the perpetrators were male. Ninety percent were adults. Twenty- three percent of kidnappings by strangers involve weapons, mostly guns.

A typical teen living a very uncommon life -- we're going to unlock the secrets to Shawn's years with the man suspected of kidnapping him, what little we know at this point. That's coming up.

Also tonight, the clues to the mystery we all want answered.


ED SMART, FATHER OF ELIZABETH SMART: I was so grateful for her to come home. And the important thing is for us to start moving forward.


COOPER: Joined by heartache and hope, his daughter was kidnapped, missing for months in plain sight. We will talk to the father of Elizabeth Smart about Shawn's road ahead -- when 360 continues.


COOPER: You're looking at Gina Dawn Brooks. She was 13 years old when she was reported missing in August 1989 in Fredericktown, Missouri.

Throughout tonight's program, we are going to show you the faces of missing children from the area where Shawn and Ben were found. If you have any information, call 1-800-THE-LOST with tips.

When Shawn disappeared, he was a child. Now he is a teen. He was held captive for more than four years in a suburban Saint Louis apartment. But he apparently had the freedom to go outside and to use the Internet.

Many questions remain unanswered, but, tonight, we are learning more about the life Shawn Hornbeck shared with his accused captor, Michael Devlin.

Once again, here's David Mattingly.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): As an 11-year-old, Shawn Hornbeck was afraid of the dark. And, then, on Sunday, October 6, 2002, everything about him faded into darkness.

No one dared to imagine that the boy whose abduction was all over the local news, whose face was seen across the country on missing posters, could be so close, and living in plain sight.

BILL ROMER, LANDLORD OF MICHAEL DEVLIN: He was right out in the open, literally.

MATTINGLY: Just 50 miles from his hometown of Richwoods, Missouri, Hornbeck was living at this small apartment complex in the town of Kirkwood with accused kidnapper Michael Devlin, and surrounded by neighbors.

KRISTA JONES, NEIGHBOR OF MICHAEL DEVLIN: But I saw Mike teaching him how to drive. And, then, later on, I saw Shawn driving around by himself. So, I just assumed that that was his father.

MATTINGLY: Devlin was known around the apartment complex for his temper, but also for keeping to himself.

ALMA RODRIGUEZ, NEIGHBOR OF MICHAEL DEVLIN: It seemed to me he was just a working man. And he would come and go. And he would just be private.

MATTINGLY: Devlin kept busy working two jobs, one as the manager at Imo's pizzeria, and the other as a part-time telephone attendant at Bopp's funeral parlor. Rarely meeting up with old friends for a fishing trip or poker game, Devlin never mentioned keeping a young boy in his apartment. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to his employer or friends.

ROB HART, FRIEND OF MICHAEL DEVLIN: I hate to be the guy to use the cliche that he seemed like a normal guy, but -- but he really did. And it -- it looks to me like he really led two separate lives, and kept them completely separated, and -- and kept his activities on the personal side really to himself.

MATTINGLY (on camera): And while Devlin was away working, friends and neighbors say Hornbeck seemed like the typical teenager, talking on the phone, riding his bike, hanging out with friends at this local convenience store.

(voice-over): But the one typical thing he did not do is attend school, one of many things neighbors say they did not pick up on.

JONES: I did see him go in and out of the apartment all the time. He would usually lock up in the daytime with his keys and take off on his bike. Sometimes, he would be wearing a backpack. And, sometimes, he didn't. So, that's why I thought he went to, like, an alternative school or something like that, because it would be all different hours.

MATTINGLY: There are many unanswered questions, including whether Hornbeck had Internet access. Someone who used the name Shawn Devlin posted a message on a Web site set up by Shawn's parents, saying, "How long are you planning to look for your son?"

And their son may have stayed, hidden in plain sight, had it not been for another shocking abduction, and, this time, an important clue. A witness spotted a white pickup truck leaving the scene where 13-year-old Ben Ownby vanished walking home from the school bus. That pickup truck was later linked to Devlin by two police officers at his apartment complex.

What followed was shock and a miracle.

ROMER: So, from that standpoint, it was kind of fortunate that Ben was abducted and found so quickly. Some people are calling him like his -- Shawn's guardian angel.


COOPER: David, how are the boys doing tonight?

MATTINGLY: Well, Ben Ownby's mother says that he's doing great. They're actually asking for a little bit of privacy right now, so that they can get him back into a normal routine, and get him back to school.

Shawn Hornbeck's recovery, however, is going a little more delicately. He was gone for four years, so they're taking their time with him. He's been spending a lot of time with family, according to a family friend. We have also learned that he's been catching up a little bit with some old friends.

COOPER: Well, let's hope they get the privacy they need.

David, thank you.

His daughter's kidnapping and remarkable return captured the attention of the country. Up next, I will talk to Ed Smart about what it was like after Elizabeth came home and what he thinks life for Shawn will be like right now.

Plus: He could be the country's first African-American president. Of course, there's a long way to go before that. Who is Senator Barack Obama, and where did he come from? How he lived before he became a household name -- all that ahead on 360.


COOPER: Well, Scott has been missing since he was 9 years old, another missing child in Missouri not far from where Ben Ownby and Shawn Hornbeck disappeared from.

Both of them are back home tonight, but the emotional impact of the ordeal is just setting in.

Someone who knows firsthand the void that a missing child leaves and the joy of getting that child back is Ed Smart. As you will remember, his daughter, Elizabeth, was taken from her own bedroom in the late spring of 2002. She was found alive nine months later.

I spoke with Ed Smart earlier tonight.


COOPER: Ed, when -- when you think about Shawn Hornbeck, he was gone for -- for four years. The transition back to, I guess not his old life, but to whatever his new life will be, his -- back to his -- his family, has got to be extraordinarily difficult.

You have been in similar circumstances. What -- what can you tell us about what it's like?

SMART: Well, I think one thing that's so important is that these kids know that it was not their fault, that nobody has the right to do this to them, and that, you know, we do not hold them responsible for what happened. We don't place any blame on them. You know, when Elizabeth came home, I was absolutely amazed at how strong she was. And I think that, you know, there are definitely difficulties there and things that have to be overcome. But I think that feeling loved, and not blame, and the surroundings of those who love you can do more good than anything can out there.

COOPER: She was gone for nine months. When she came back, was she a different Elizabeth than -- than the -- the girl who had left?

SMART: You know, I can't help but think that that definitely had an impact on her.

But I felt like her core values, the things that she believed in and that she knew was right, were there. And I think that it didn't take her much time at all to move back into the family and move forward with her life.

You know, the night that she came home, "Dad, I want to go sleep in my bed, and I will be here in the morning."

And that was just like, wow. I -- I couldn't believe it.

COOPER: You know, there are reports coming out now that Shawn was told -- was threatened -- or -- or told that his family would be hurt if he left. And, obviously, those are early reports.

But I know Elizabeth was told similar things by -- by her kidnappers.

SMART: Absolutely.

I mean, if you put yourself in their position -- for example, Elizabeth, that night she was taken, her sister was sitting there watching this whole thing happen, seeing the knife at her side, and being told, if you yell out, I'm going to kill you and I'm going to kill your family.

You know, when you have got a knife at your side, certainly, that is about as real as life comes. And, you know, not only is pressure on her survival, but: What's going to happen to my family?

You know, when I hear comments made that, you know, well, he didn't want to go back to school, that's why he never broke out, I -- I just think they're inexcusable. Those children, I believe, feel responsible, not only for their own selves, but for their families and: What happens if I don't do what he tells me to do?

And, since they have experienced firsthand a relative amount of violence, you know, they know that that's very real, and this guy's capable of doing it.

COOPER: Ben Ownby said today that he's ready to go back to school. I know Elizabeth is back in school. She's at Brigham Young University Home.

How -- how is she doing? SMART: She's doing so well. I -- I just have all the hope for both Ben and Shawn that they can get back in school, that, you know, on -- in Elizabeth's case, when she got back to school, for the most part, the kids were terrific. Her friends were there for her.

And, you know, they just took her right back in. And, you know, she was Elizabeth, not the Elizabeth Smart that was abducted.

COOPER: Well, let's hope Ben and Shawn can be treated just the same way.

Ed, thanks for -- thanks for talking.

SMART: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, a remarkable story.

We have much more ahead on this story.

Plus: Barack Obama making a first step toward a presidential run. We will find out why some political reporters are calling him the best candidate since Bill Clinton?

And later: the reality of Iraq and the murky rules the military has about civilian casualties.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To say that the little girl who is walking to the market with her mother is not going to get shot, you know, that is wishful thinking.


COOPER: The terrible cost of war -- how much is a life worth? How about an Iraqi life?

We're following the money and "Keeping Them Honest."


COOPER: Well, in the months since Hurricane Katrina hit, we brought you a lot of heart breaking stories of devastation and incredible stories of survival. Tonight, the dramatic rescue you haven't heard about.


LT. JOHN KISTLER, LOUISIANA STATE POLICE: Literally, like you were carrying eggs. You treated them very gently. You didn't want to tip them over, rock them. And we treated them with, you know, very special care.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Fourteen hundred frozen embryos were saved from the rising waters. Today, 16 months after the hurricane hit, a baby boy was born. You're going to meet his proud parents and hear their incredible story in our next hour. That's in the 11 p.m. hour of 360.

But right now, the political story that made big news today. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has made it official. He's taken the first step toward a presidential run.

A year ago, you may remember the rising Democratic star was insisting he wouldn't run in 2008. The question is, why has he changed his mind now and what might it mean for the race ahead?

With all of that, here's CNN's Dana Bash.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Barack Obama!

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The senator who's already reshaped the 2008 race with crushing crowds from Iowa to New Hampshire, made it sound as if he's as surprised as anyone to be taking the first formal step to run for president.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Certainly, I didn't expect to find myself in this position a year ago. I've been struck by how hungry we all are for a different kind of politics.

BASH: Yet, Barack Obama's announcement in this web video of an exploratory committee to raise money came after months of political prep work. In a classic move, he tried to turn his biggest liability, lack of government experience, into an asset, running as an outsider.

OBAMA: Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions.

BASH: Obama is a celebrity. Paparazzi even followed him to Hawaii to steal a bare-chested photo.

Whether he can turn media attention into a credible candidacy is the question. Just two years ago, the 45-year-old candidate was in the Illinois state legislature, and experience is sure to be an issue in the Democratic field that includes seasoned political heavyweights.

ANNA GREENBERG, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Democratic primary voters are strategic. And as much as they like Barack Obama, if they think that he's going to be a weak general election candidate because of his lack of foreign policy credentials, it's going to be a problem for them.

BASH: Despite these scenes in Iowa and New Hampshire, Obama trails Hillary Clinton and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards in assembling strong political organizations. But they are all nervously watching Obama mania. GREENBERG: This announcement may put more pressure on Hillary Clinton to decide either way, if she's going to run or not. Because there will be some real competition for -- on fundraising. There will be competition on hiring advisors and operatives on the ground.

BASH: Senator Clinton's advisers said she's not changing her timetable, planning an announcement likely next month.

Obama does have a leg up on Clinton and many other Democrats who voted for the Iraq war. He's opposed it from the start.

OBAMA: Are there any circumstances that you can articulate in which we would say to the Maliki government that enough is enough and we are no longer committing our troops?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not going to speculate.

BASH: He would be the first black president, something a former black candidate applauded on the eve of Obama's announcement.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: There's a nonstop line between the March in Selma in 1965 and inauguration in Washington in 2009.

BASH (on camera): In announcing an exploratory committee instead of his formal candidacy for president, Obama left himself some wiggle room, saying he'd make a speech with a final decision back home in Illinois on February 10.

But Obama even told reporters here on Capitol Hill he fully expects to say in that speech he's running for president.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.


COOPER: Well, today's announcement is all the more striking when you consider that just two and a half years ago, most Americans barely knew who Barack Obama was. Then came, of course, that speech at the Democratic National Convention.


OBAMA: Tonight is a particular honor for me, because let's face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely.

COOPER (voice-over): In 2004, Barack Obama stepped onto the national political stage with a life story that seemed to be made for Hollywood by way of a Benetton ad.

OBAMA: My father grew up in a tiny village in Kenya. My mother was a white American who grew up in a small town in Kansas. They met at the University of Hawaii.

COOPER: A black man from Kenya, a white woman from Kansas who fell in love and named their son Barack, Swahili for blessing. His middle name, Hussein.

The couple separated when Obama was 2. His mother remarried; his father returned to Kenya. Neither would hear the speech that made their son a star.

OBAMA: They're both passed away now. And yet I know that on this night, they both look down on me with great pride.

I am fired up.

COOPER: Today a polished politician, Obama is not entirely baggage-free. He's admitted to using marijuana and cocaine as a teenager in Hawaii where he struggled to fit in at his mostly white prep school.

In his autobiography, he wrote this about those years: "I learned to slip back and forth between my black and white worlds."

At Columbia University, he seemed to hit his stride. He went on to earn his law degree, becoming the first African-American president of the "Harvard Law Review".

And then, with virtually unlimited opportunities before him, he made what some considered a surprising choice.

OBAMA: I moved to the south side of Chicago where I started as a union organizer, worked as a civil rights attorney.

COOPER: From there, he stepped into politics. First, the Illinois Senate, and then Capitol Hill. Along the way, he met his wife, Michelle. In its current issue, "Ebony" magazine calls them the hottest couple in America. Married 14 years, they have two children.

OBAMA: I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents' dreams live on in my two precious daughters.

Cooper: When it comes to religion, the issue that no American politician can afford to ignore, Obama has parted ways with his parents. Last year he told the "Chicago Sun-Times," "I was not raised in a particularly religious household. My father was Muslim, but as an adult became an atheist. My mother, whose parents were non- practicing Baptists and Methodists, grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself. As a consequence, I did, too."

But the son has found religion as an adult, at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago where he and his family worship. Now he's about to learn if coming late to religion is a political liability or just another fact in an unconventional biography.

OBAMA: In no other country on earth is my story even possible.


COOPER: Well, there is certainly a lot of hype surrounding Barack Obama. The question is, can he live up to it? Two political heavyweight hitters weigh in next.

Plus, the price tag our government is putting on the lives of innocent Iraqis killed in the war. "Keeping Them Honest" when 360 continues.


COOPER: Senator Barack Obama took a step toward the 2008 race for the White House today, filing papers to create a presidential exploratory committee. You cannot buy the kind of media attention he has been getting lately. Comparisons even to Abraham Lincoln by some, another Illinois lawmaker with little experience when he sought the White House.

Earlier I talked about the Obama hype with "TIME" magazine columnist Joe Klein and Republican strategist Mike Murphy.


COOPER: Joe, you said that Barack Obama is probably the most talented politician since Bill Clinton. In what way? Is it sort of this gut level instinct?

JOE KLEIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I just watch the guy. And it comes so easy to him. He can move a crowd with his speeches. He understands issues and how to break them down and describe them in ways that individuals can understand them.

He's real smart. And I think he has a judicious temperament, an even-keeled temperament. Those are the components of being a really good politician, I think.

COOPER: Mike, do you agree with that? If so, what are the big question marks about him? I expect you're going to say inexperience.

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, actually, no, I think that's overrated. I think that will be a cliche as coverage goes on about Obama. But we've nominated at least both parties inexperienced people before.

I think his big problem is right now the people are in love with the idea of a Barack Obama, but they don't really know much about who he really is. And the question in the nomination will be what is his second act? As time goes on, can he kind of sustain this interest? And will his formulation of messages basically reject the politics of the usualness? And this kind of better politics, will that have staying power.

I think he's very attractive right now. The question is will it sustain in the reality he faces, which is the Democratic primary. It's about delegates first. It gets to the rest of the country later.

COOPER: Mike, how does a Republican run against Barack Obama? I mean, if he is sort of this question mark and his record is, you know, open on a lot of things. MURPHY: Well, that's a long ways in the future. I mean, the Barack Obama that a Republican may or may not have to run against will be the Barack Obama who wins the nomination. And a lot of what America will know about him will be controlled by how he performs in that race, assuming he wins it, which is a big assumption, though I think he's a pretty powerful candidate.

I think that's where what Joe says comes into effect. It is the process, in surviving the process that will have a lot of impact on who he is. And he has not been through something like that. He's kind of had an easy ride, and he does right now exist in probably the most dangerous place in American politics, which is he is standing between Hillary Rodham Clinton and the nomination.

And the Clinton world will -- I mean, I think it's second higher after campaign manager ought to be food tester. He may campaign against politics as usual, but he's going to feel it. And that will be the test.

And if he passes that and beats her, which I think he has a chance to do if he runs, then he'll be a very formidable candidate for a Republican to run against. And I think conventional wisdom there will be what state in a general election can he carry that Al Gore didn't?

COOPER: How important is the fact that Barack Obama is the only candidate right there in terms of Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards who's been against the war from the get-go?

KLEIN: I think that that's going to give him a fair amount of credibility with the base. But also, he's going to have to really figure out what other issues he wants to step out on.

In 2008, I think people really want a new direction. And they want to have answers to things like national health insurance, and an alternative energy policy and other issues.

The question up until now -- he wrote a book called "The Audacity of Hope", which wasn't really audacious on those issues. And we'll see what he chooses to step out on.

COOPER: Mike, is his war position a problem for him? Not so much in the primaries, but if he actually gets the nomination, then convincing people that he can be commander in chief?

MURPHY: No, I don't think it will be. But we don't know yet. I agree that the war issue will give him a lot of power on the liberal side of the Democratic Party, which is very key to winning a Democratic nomination.

But I think what his glass jaw might be -- and we're guessing now; we have to let him mature as a candidate -- is that he has the language, impressively so, of change and reform, which could be an extremely powerful theme in both the primary and the general election.

But as Joe just alluded to, he's very timid. He uses the language, but he hasn't shown much political courage. So his rhetoric may not -- he may not live up to the reality of his rhetoric, which is a tough kind of reality to do. It's hard to be a change act in politics and pay the price. And I think that will be the ultimate test this year of Obama, to see if he's really what he says he is.

COOPER: Mike Murphy, Joe Klein, thanks.

MURPHY: Thank you.


COOPER: Republicans also revealed plans to start raising money for a possible White House run. Five-term Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo announced his ambitions online. A spokesman said Tancredo plans to file officially with the Federal Election Commission sometime this week.

It is an issue the next president will also have to deal with, the war in Iraq. Today it was especially bloody. That story is coming up.

Plus, the Pentagon admits it paid tens of millions of dollars to innocent victims of the war. Is that enough? We're "Keeping Them Honest" when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, the pictures we have unfortunately seen all too often. An especially deadly day it was in Iraq, the kind that makes you take pause. More than 100 people were killed in Baghdad alone. Nearly three times that many were wounded. Policemen gunned down, civilians shot, 25 unidentified bodies found around the city.

How much is an Iraqi's life worth? Believe it or not, the U.S. military is putting price tags on the lives of some of those killed and handing out millions to their families. Rules for when and how they do it aren't clear, and that's coming under some criticism.

CNN's Joe Johns tonight is "Keeping Them Honest".


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The numbers are grimly stunning: 34,000 Iraqi civilians dead in 2006, most in the kind of sectarian violence which erupted today. Most, but not all.

In fact, some Iraqi civilians who died were casualties of U.S. actions there, so-called collateral damage. We can't tell you the exact number killed by U.S. forces, because we don't know.

Sara Holwinski is with the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict.

SARA HOLWINSKI, CAMPAIGN FOR INNOCENT VICTIMS IN CONFLICT: The U.S. military doesn't keep numbers on civilian casualties. JOHNS: We're "Keeping Them Honest", or trying to, but the Pentagon generally doesn't do civilian body counts. Why? For one thing, they point out, there's no federal law requiring it.

But we do know the Pentagon says it has paid tens of millions of dollars to compensate innocent victims of war over the past three years with what have come to be known as condolence payments.

We also know this: in 2005, the military received hundreds of claims for these payments. By the way the going rate for condolence payments when an Iraqi civilian is killed by U.S. forces is generally about $2,500. But since we don't know who got what and who didn't, there's no way of telling how many civilians may have killed and how many may have been injured by U.S. forces by accident.

What's more, the military deals with each claim differently. Commanders literally decide who deserves what an Iraqi civilian is killed.

HOLWINSKI: The problem is, it is very ad hoc across the entire country. So the documents that are required are different depending on which brigade you're talking to, depending upon the commander. The commander is really in charge of this program. And so he or she can set down guidelines, either very vague or very specific.

JOHNS: Jonathan Tracey (ph) is a former U.S. Army captain, a military lawyer who was responsible for handing out the payments. He says the U.S. has to do this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there's not a system in place that handles that situation, you're not the harbinger of democracy and justice, and you're not helping these people, you're just going to breed ill will.

JOHNS: The Pentagon says the idea is to try to show that the U.S., without admitting any fault or responsibility, is expressing sympathy.

But virtually all the critics say the one problem with the program is the lack of uniformity and the resentment created by inconsistent payments. Now the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Pat Leahy, is looking into whether condolence payments need to be formalized by Congress, essentially requiring the Pentagon to count civilian dead.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I think if we had a consistent program, run the same way everywhere, you would have the actual numbers. It doesn't have to be hard, to count where the numbers are. And it wouldn't be catch us catch can. As I said, our military, in many areas, are doing an extremely good job. But it's not consistent.

JOHNS: The Government Accountability Office is looking at how much money is paid to how many Iraqi civilians as a result of U.S. actions. When it issues that report, we'll be watching.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Earlier this month, while shifting his Iraq team around, President Bush gave the job of top ground commander to Lieutenant General David Petraeus. He's been involved in the war since it began, but his new job makes him one of the people you should know.

CNN's Brian Todd reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2003, while most of us watched the war in Iraq unfold on our TV screens, Lieutenant General David Petraeus was in the middle of it, leading his troops into a battle like no other.

Following the initial invasion, Petraeus and the 101st Airborne Division oversaw the reconstruction and rebound of Mosul, Iraq's third largest city.

In 2004, Petraeus started building the new Iraqi army from the ground up. He left that post a year later, but even then, Petraeus knew the U.S. was in it for the long haul.

LT. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY: This is about as difficult and about as challenging an environment as anyone can imagine. It is a long-term endeavor that will require determination, persistence, patience and resilience.

TODD: Four characteristics that could perhaps describe Petraeus himself. A graduate of both West Point and Princeton, the so-called warrior scholar has also co-authored a new counterinsurgency manual for U.S. troops.

Now, the soon-to-be ground commander faces what some say will be his toughest task yet: to save Iraq.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: General Petraeus is a combination of extraordinary experience and a real passion about what we're doing in Iraq. He believes we can win. And I think he will infuse that spirit into our forces there and I think make a measurable difference.

LT. COL. ROBERT MAGINNIS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): He'll do things with a smile, but he's vicious behind the scenes. He knows what needs to be accomplished and he'll be dogmatic in getting it.

PETRAEUS: I never bought that one person was going to save Iraq. I've always felt that Iraqis will save Iraq.

TODD: Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, General Petraeus.

Our "Shot of the Day" is coming up. Forget the open range. These cowboys, well, check it out. They're hitting the slopes. Or actually I guess the slopes are kind of hitting them in his case, at least.

First, Randi Kaye joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, Anderson.

Less than a week after President Bush announced he wants to send more than 21,000 troops to Iraq, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is saying he wants to extend the combat tours of 1,200 soldiers.

Also today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was strongly inclined to recommend a troop increase to President Bush if commanders believe it is needed.

Jury selection resumes tomorrow in the trial of former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Today, a federal judge grilled potential jurors about their political conviction and their knowledge of possible witnesses, including Vice President Cheney.

Libby, who worked for Cheney, is charged with perjury and making false statements to federal agents investigating the illegal disclosure of former CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity.

On Wall Street, the Dow gained 26.5 points today, closing at a record high for the third session in a row. The NASDAQ fell five, and the S&P rose slightly.

Meanwhile, oil prices plunged more than three percent today after Saudi Arabia said OPEC reduction cuts were working well and there was no need for an emergency meeting of the group. The price of oil in the U.S. has fallen about 16 percent since the end of last year, in part due to warm weather in the northeast -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Randi, time for "The Shot of the Day", the Wild West on skis. The champions are radio champions -- the cowboys, I should say, are rodeo champions for them. Riding bucking mustangs or wild bulls is a piece of cake.

The slopes, however, is a different problem, a different story. It is the first time many of them have strapped on skis, and most don't make it down the mountain on their feet.

The event is in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It's billed as the most unique ski rodeo in the world. Yee-haw! Ouch. Yikes. They do better than I do, anyway.

In the next hour, missing no more, but the mystery lingers. We're live with new developments on the two Missouri boys, lost, now found.

Plus an ice storm. Dozens dead, hundreds of thousands in the dark as millions are slammed with a winter wallop. How long is it going to last? We'll have the latest on the deadly weather when 360 continues.


COOPER: Good evening again.

The parents of Ben Ownby, one of two missing boys found together in Missouri, say they want to give their son a chance to be normal. But what is normal to a child who was allegedly kidnapped for days?

What about Shawn Hornbeck, who vanished more than four years ago? What happens now to them and to the suspect? We'll take a closer look tonight.

But we begin with a winter wake-up call. If you haven't been hit with the brutal weather yet, consider yourself lucky or on notice. A storm system has engulfed much of the country. This is from Oklahoma, one of the worst hit states.

Across the nation, at least 49 people have been killed.


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