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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

New Details Emerge in Pirate Lake Murder Mystery; Political Season Turning Even Nastier?; Search for American Man's Body Halted; Connecticut Home Invasion Case Enters Penalty Phase

Aired October 18, 2010 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for watching, everyone.

Tonight, "Keeping Them Honest." Think you've seen it all this campaign season? Well, stay tuned, because you ain't seen nothing yet. We're going to show you a new Democratic attack ad that's even making some Democrats queasy, Jack Conway accusing opponent Rand Paul of bondage and worshipping false idols.

And Sharron Angle telling tall tales to kids. We have the video.

Also tonight, new developments in the so-called Pirate Lake murder, new details on the grisly killing of the Mexican investigator, and new word tonight that Mexican authorities may not believe the story that Tiffany Hartley is telling, the story that her husband is still missing.

Later: the Connecticut home invasion horror, a killer convicted of invading a family's home, then murdering a mom and her two daughters. What could possibly save him from a death sentence? We will see what the defense and prosecution did today. And you can decide if you would spare a killer's life.

We begin, though, tonight, "Keeping Them Honest," as we do every night. Tonight, another politician playing loose with the facts. We're talking about the Senate race in Kentucky between Democrat Jack Conway and Republican Tea Party favorite Rand Paul.

It's been close. It's been contentious. It's been kind of ugly, and that was before the Conway campaign launched this ad. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JACK CONWAY CAMPAIGN AD)

JACK CONWAY (D), KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Jack Conway. I approve this image.

NARRATOR: Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that called the Holy Bible a hoax, that was banned for mocking Christianity and Christ?

Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol, and say his god was Aqua Buddha?

Why does Rand Paul now want to end all federal faith-based initiatives and even end the reduction for religious charities? Why are there so many questions about Rand Paul?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, it sounds dangerous, maybe even criminal, right? Well, we're going to tell you the real facts in a moment.

But, first, I want to show you Rand Paul's replay ad from today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, RAND PAUL CAMPAIGN AD)

RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Rand Paul, and I approve this message.

NARRATOR: Now Jack Conway is attacking Rand Paul's faith. Rand Paul keeps Christ in his heart and in the life he shares with his wife and three boys.

Don't be fooled by Conway's desperate attack. It's shameless, disgraceful, gutter politics at its worst. What kind of shameful politician would sink this low to bear false witness against another man just to win an election?

This one would, Jack Conway.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: All right, so if you're keeping score at home, according to the ads, Jack Conway is a gutter politician bearing false witness. Rand Paul a lying, kidnapping pagan, apparently, according to this ad.

Again, we're going to check the facts in a moment.

There were not many facts, though, at the debate yesterday between these two. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Step up. Cast aside these attacks on my personal religion.

Jack, you should be ashamed of yourself. You should apologize. Have you no decency? Have you no shame?

CONWAY: Why did he freely join a group known for mocking or making fun of people of faith? And, secondly, when is it ever a good idea, a good idea to tie up a woman and ask her to kneel before a false idol, your god that you call Aqua Buddha?

Those are two fundamental questions I hope we get answered here tonight.

PAUL: You just out-and-out lie because you have nothing to stand on. Run a race as a man. Stand up and be a man, instead of just calling me names.

CONWAY: You don't have the guts to stand by your positions, because once you get out there and put them out there, and you realize you can't sell them and get elected on them, then you step back from them. You told me to stand up and be a man. Have the guts to stay by your positions.

PAUL: You know, Jack, you know how we can tell when you're lying? It's when your lips are moving. OK?

(LAUGHTER)

CONWAY: When is it ever appropriate to tie up a woman and have her kneel before a false idol that you refer to as Aqua Buddha?

PAUL: When this debate ends, you will notice that I will not be shaking his hand tonight. I will not shake hands with someone who attacks my religion and attacks my Christian beliefs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: All right, so a lot of heat, a lot of Jack Conway repeating the Aqua Buddha line, like -- well, like no pun intended, like a mantra.

So, "Keeping Them Honest," let's check the facts. For starters, this is the secret society that the ad refers to. Rand Paul is the one in the black cape and straw hat. Hard to tell for a number of reasons. First, there's the old nose and glasses trick and the fact that the picture was taken when Rand Paul was attending Baylor University 27 years ago. The photo, by the way, is from an article about the incident in "GQ" magazine.

So, the picture was from the Baylor equivalent of "The Harvard Lampoon," which is kind of a group of college pranksters. It was a secret society, apparently a group called the NoZe Brotherhood, spelled N-O-Z-E.

The "GQ" article describes an incident back in 1983 when Paul and a NoZe brother paid a call on made a female teammate of Paul's on the swim team. Now, according to the woman's account, the pair blindfolded her, tied her up, put her in a car, forced her to do bong hits.

Then she told "GQ" they drove out to the countryside and forced her to go bow down to Aqua Buddha in a creek. "It was kind of sadistic," she told "GQ."

Here's what later told "The Washington Post"'s "Plum Line": "I went along because they were my friends. There was a implicit degree of cooperation in the whole thing. I felt like I was being hazed."

She went on to say that no one forced her to smoke pot or coerced her to do anything, but she admits it was weird and, afterwards, she broke off her friendship with Rand Paul and his friends.

As for the other facts of the ad, yes, the NoZe Brotherhood was banned, namely because Baylor is a strict Baptist institution. Now, Rand Paul is a Presbyterian, not a Aqua Buddhist, whatever that may be. He wants to end federal faith-based initiatives because he's a libertarian who wants to end many federal initiatives, not because of the tenets of Aqua Buddhism forbid him.

He want to end the deduction for charitable contributions because he wants to eliminate the federal income tax. For the record, Rand Paul categorically denies kidnapping anyone or forcing anyone to do drugs, but he wouldn't come on the program tonight. And neither would Jack Conway.

Thankfully, Paul Begala and Alex Castellanos did, Democratic and Republican strategist, each one familiar with crafting campaign ads, and no doubt counterattacks as well.

Paul, what about this? I mean, a lot of Democrats are saying, look, this Conway just crosses the line.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I can't imagine why.

Seriously, it's -- it's incontroverted -- uncontroverted by, apparently, Dr. Paul in the debate last night. The ad makes it clear that it was in college. It makes it clear it was a long time ago. And I think that Rand Paul's defense is really disingenuous.

He says, "He's attacking my religion." No. No. He belonged to a group that mocked Christianity -- a long time ago, but still. What if he had belonged to a group that mocked Jews, right? I would want to know that. Voters can process this.

And I think, to me, it's perfectly legitimate, and I was really surprised that he didn't -- Dr. Paul didn't have a better answer in the debate last night: Gee, I put the high in hijinks. That's all that that was.

OK. Well, maybe people can discern for themselves if that's a legitimate answer. But I just don't think that -- I don't have the slightest problem -- I know it was a long time ago -- but criticizing somebody for, apparently, tying a woman up and putting her in a car, and...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, a 27-year-old college prank? When college papers that people wrote are brought up in ads, people say, well, look, this was 20-some odd years ago. This is something that is 27 years old.

BEGALA: That's a legitimate defense. Let him say that. Let voters figure it out.

The people of Kentucky -- I have done races in Kentucky. I did a governor's race there many years ago. Let me tell you what. The three B's of Kentucky politics are bluegrass, bourbon, and the baby Jesus. They are serious about their religion.

And if he -- if his defense is, look, as a college student, I mocked Christianity and tied a woman up, OK, that's his defense. But he didn't even offer that defense.

COOPER: Alex, is this fair game?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think Paul is really launching a valiant effort here to defend the indefensible and just the plain dumb.

This is reaching -- reaching into the past a little bit. I mean, he's accusing Rand Paul of being a college student. OK, I guess a lot of Americans have committed that crime. This is what happens to desperate campaigns. You're in a wave year. You're running behind. You're running out of time.

COOPER: You think it's going to backfire against Conway.

CASTELLANOS: You know, I think very much so.

I think Paul is right about this. There's a jury out there. It's called the American people. They're fairly smart. And what this tells those voters is that a guy is so desperate to win, that he will use unsubstantiated charges -- there is really anything being behind them -- that he will -- he's -- he will say things that -- he will attack someone's faith.

And not even fellow Democrats, like Claire McCaskill, can support this. And so what conclusion do voters get? This guy wants to win too much. He's too interested in himself and his own political future. He's worried about keeping his job, not my job. And this election is about jobs.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I'm sorry to interrupt, Alex.

CASTELLANOS: No, no, go ahead.

BEGALA: But they are substantiated. They are substantiated.

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: Not by the woman, who said that -- not by the woman, who said it was a college prank.

BEGALA: She said they were kind of sadistic.

No, no, that's corroborating it. Maybe it was just a college prank, but it was a sadistic one, as she said. And I tend to agree.

CASTELLANOS: I -- I must have missed that part.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: And, also, mocking somebody's religion, I'm sorry, but that is just wrong.

(CROSSTALK) CASTELLANOS: Jack Conway got this wrong, Paul. Jack Conway got this wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: It was Christine O'Donnell who was -- who wore the witch hat.

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: I think he has them mixed up.

COOPER: Let's let our viewers decide.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Just I want to have time to show this, the Sharron Angle situation, because, a couple of weeks ago, we highlighted this ad that Sharron Angle had played which showed a picture allegedly of illegal immigrants. Rand Paul actually played the -- had the same picture in the ad.

This is a picture. I don't know if you can see it. I'm not sure if we can zoom in on that, but, anyway, the picture was taken of some men in Mexico, whether or not or not they were legal immigrants is not known, according to the photographer, who was interviewed later.

But they are clearly Mexicans and there's a fence there -- or Latinos. And now Sharron Angle was recently talking to a group of Hispanic students in a school. I want to play what she said. The video isn't great, but just listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: So, that's what we want, is a secure and sovereign nation. And, you know, I don't -- I don't know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a little more Asian to me. I don't know that.

What we know about -- what we know about ourselves is that we are a melting pot in this country. My -- my grandchildren are evidence of that. I'm evidence of that. I have been called the first Asian legislator in our Nevada State Assembly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: OK. Before that -- before that video played in the -- in the statement, she had basically indicated that the people in the picture, it wasn't clear, maybe they were from Canada. It wasn't clear. It wasn't necessarily the southern border that she was talking about, which seems basically a complete stretch of the facts.

And then what you make, Paul, at the end, where she talks about herself being mistaken for Asian, and that maybe people in the audience are Asian?

BEGALA: I have no idea.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: I'm at a complete loss, I have to tell you.

I -- Jon Ralston, the premier political reporter in that state, wrote that the room was an Asian student -- an Asian -- a Hispanic student group. And all the kids...

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: See, Paul got -- you got them confused, too.

BEGALA: I guess so. It happens to everybody.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: But she -- she -- this is -- you know, she's just completely unhinged. This is the same woman who said that Frankford, Texas, is run by Sharia law, which, of course, there hasn't been a Frankford, Texas, in over 30 years, and that Dearborn, Michigan, with seven mosques and 60 Christian churches, was run under Sharia law, which of course crazy.

So, she keeps saying crazy things.

COOPER: Well, Alex, for the record, her spokesman says that she was trying to make the case that this country is a melting pot and that somebody once, when she was in the legislator, mistook her for -- for Asian.

CASTELLANOS: You know, I think she chose a particularly confusing way to express herself there.

I understand her sentiment, that, hey, doesn't -- you know, you don't know who anybody is in this country because we're all judged by what we can do, not what we look like.

And -- but from now on, as a Hispanic guy, I would like to be addressed at Alejandro-san. Maybe I am Chinese. I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: But it's interesting in this race. I mean, maybe it's just like a liberal media outside of the state which is focusing on a lot of her statements that she's made, because it doesn't seem to have any impact certainly within the state.

CASTELLANOS: You know, Anderson, I think that's a good point.

This year is not about the individual football players. This year is about the team and which jersey you wear. Are you on the incumbent, on the Washington jersey team, the team that's running Washington now, or are you on the other team?

And the foibles and flaws and faux pas of the individual players don't seem to matter or move numbers that much. There are a lot of Democratic candidates that voters actually like that are going to lose this year, because they're for the wrong team. They're for "They have spent too much and put us too much in debt in Washington" team.

And they're a lot of Republicans who, I think, are stepping on their own messages and maybe not expressing themselves that well, they're going to win, because they're on the outsiders' team.

COOPER: Interesting.

Paul Begala, Alex Castellanos, guys, thanks.

Let us know what you think.

BEGALA: Thank you.

COOPER: Join the live chat right now at AC360.com.

Just ahead tonight: Democratic Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, we have been following her story for quite a while now. The rules said she couldn't give scholarship money to her relatives, remember? But she did, over and over and over and over again, more than $30,000 to her family members, to family of people on her staff. There were plenty of needy kids who should have gotten that money and didn't.

Well, now we have learned someone else got scholarship money who shouldn't have. First time, it was family. This time, it was business. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also tonight: the murder on Pirate Lake: a jet ski trip gone horribly wrong for Tiffany and David Hartley -- grisly new details about the Mexican lawman investigating the -- investigating the case. He was found beheaded. New word tonight Mexican authorities may not believe Tiffany Hartley's story -- details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" again tonight: a new allegation against a Dallas, Texas, congresswoman who is already accused of nepotism and the handing out of tens of thousands of dollars of scholarship money, self-dealing, or at least the appearance of it.

We're talking about Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson. You will remember, she's the one who broke the rules of the Congressional Black Caucus Scholarship Foundation by awarding 23 scholarships worth $31,000 to her grandsons, her great-nephews, and to the son and daughter of her top Dallas aide.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON (D), TEXAS: Anderson, I have acknowledged that I was negligent. I have acknowledged that I made a mistake. When it was called to my attention, I tried to correct it.

I know you want to make a scandal out of this, and I can -- but I can't help you. All I can do is tell you can the truth. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, that's what she told me weeks ago. She says she tried to correct it. She has since repaid the money, but the truth is, she has never fully accounted for failing to follow some very explicit rules against nepotism.

In fact, she denies knowing that you are not even supposed to give money to relatives. And she claims she was so busy, she never really paid attention to these scholarships, never paid attention to the details and who was getting the money.

But, little by little, her story is frankly, crumbling, and now there are some new allegations. They center on a person named Danielle O'Bannon. Three years ago, according to "The Dallas Morning News," she got $1,000 in scholarship money through Congresswoman Johnson.

So, it turns out her father, Don O'Bannon, is a vice president of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, where he oversees minority contracting. So, why is that important? Well, it just so happens that Congresswoman Johnson is one of those minority contractors. She owns, through a trust, a 25 percent stake in two airport newsstands.

Mr. O'Bannon has now been put on leave. The Johnson office, not surprisingly, given her past record on this, has no comment.

Joining me now to talk about it is Todd Gillman is "The Dallas Morning New," who has been all over this story, broken this story from the beginning, Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government -- in Washington.

You know, Todd, every time I think this story has kind of faded, a new name emerges, and the list of people that -- that Congresswoman Johnson gave scholarships to inappropriately just grows longer and longer and longer. I mean, it looks like she was using the scholarship to curry favor in this case with someone who had influence over her because interests.

TODD GILLMAN, "THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS": That -- that is the allegation and that's the interpretation that some people are putting on this.

We haven't been able to establish a quid pro quo. It certainly raises some eyebrows that one of the scholarships went to the daughter of a contracting official at the airport where she has some business interests.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, you haven't been able to establish whether or not she knew that Danielle was the daughter of this man who oversaw her business interest?

GILLMAN: Right. I spoke with the girl's mother. The mother and father have been divorced for 16 years. The mother says that the father, the one who works at DFW Airport, didn't know anything about the application, had nothing to do with applying for the scholarship, but she did tell me that she's certain that Congresswoman Johnson knows both of them.

She knows the congresswoman through various social circles. They are not friends, she says, but she does say that the congresswoman know hers, knows the ex-husband and knows the daughter.

COOPER: And, Melanie, Danielle O'Bannon, you know, for all we know, is a very worthy recipient. She is studying at Dartmouth now. Clearly, she must be a good student. She apparently didn't break any rules in getting the scholarship, although we don't really know if she knew the congresswoman, and, therefore, you know, signed this pledge that she had no connection to the congresswoman.

What do you make of this? I mean, -- is this -- what do you make of it?

MELANIE SLOAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: Well, I think my favorite part of this story is that Mrs. O'Bannon's explanation is really that her daughter got the scholarship because she knows Alma Rangel, Charlie Rangel's wife, chairman of the House Ways Committee -- House Ways and Means Committee Charlie Rangel.

So, even if she did not get the scholarship because of an improper relationship with Mr. O'Bannon, she still got the scholarship because of cronyism, because her mom knew Charlie Rangel's wife.

And this is really the problem with the scholarship program on the whole. It's really all about cronyism and not about the best kids who need scholarships getting them. There's no way for kids to apply for these scholarships. These were unadvertised. And this exactly says that the CBC Foundation needs to fix this program.

COOPER: And it does seem, Todd, that -- that Congresswoman Johnson's story from the beginning has been: Well, look, I have been so busy, I just didn't even really know.

But, so, she's basically saying she didn't really know that her own grandson and grand-nephew were receiving these scholarships, which kind of defies credibility.

GILLMAN: Right.

Well, she told you and she's told us and she's told others kind of conflicting stories about whether she knew that her relatives were getting these scholarships. Look, the year that Danielle O'Bannon got the scholarships, five of those other six kids that we have been talking about, the relatives of the congresswoman and her employee, also got scholarships.

That was six out of 10 in the year 2007 were people who should probably have not gotten these scholarships. Now, I will say, Danielle wasn't related to the -- is not related to the congresswoman. She does live in the district, unlike those other relatives.

So, on that level, it's defensible that she got the scholarship. And as you say, she is, by all reports, all accounts that we have been able to get, an outstanding student. It's just that there's this potential conflict of interests having to do with the congresswoman's business interests and DFW Airport.

COOPER: And the same year, Melanie, that -- that -- that Danielle apparently received the scholarship, she also got a four-day internship in one of Representative Johnson's congressional offices, correct?

SLOAN: Which all goes to show that it does seem, indeed, that Danielle O'Bannon did know Eddie Bernice Johnson, and it does seem more likely that that's the real reason she got the scholarship is her relationship with the congresswoman.

And the fact is, Eddie Bernice Johnson has no credibility on this issue, given that her story has changed every time she's caught on one of these issues. So we really can't ever know the truth about who got which scholarship why in that office.

COOPER: Right.

And, Todd, I mean, frankly, Congresswoman Johnson could have, from the very beginning, you know, laid out the list of people who got these scholarships, and could have pointed out any one who there may be a conflict with. And, clearly, she's not done that, because, when she's talked to you or when she's talked to me, the one time she talked to me, you know, she would admit to those people whose names had only been revealed, and they had only been revealed because of your hard work and "The Dallas Morning News"' hard work in tracking them down.

GILLMAN: Right.

COOPER: She -- she's only given up the information that was already out there. She's not actually given out any information that wasn't previously known.

GILLMAN: Well, there's -- there's the old Washington saying about telling the truth slowly.

But -- and I have to say that the story of Danielle O'Bannon wouldn't have come to light if not for an anonymous tipster who called the DFW Airport fraud hot line. And then we found out that her father, the vice president in charge of minority contracting at DFW, had been suspended, pending an investigation, which is still ongoing.

So I can't take credit for having discovered this. We have vetted any number of names on the list of scholarship recipients. We have looked for relatives. We have looked for others, and we haven't found any others. But who knows? This is an example that it's just impossible, sometimes, to see where the networks are.

COOPER: And we should say, Congresswoman Johnson is up for reelection. We have invited her on this program repeatedly. We continue to invite her on this program to try to explain this latest name on the list, and -- and, frankly, to find out if there are any other names.

And we also continue to invite Congresswoman Sanford Bishop, who is running for reelection in Georgia, who has also been caught giving out scholarships inappropriately. And who knows how many other there are. The scholarship fund seems to have really had no oversight whatsoever. And we are going to continue to scratch away at this.

Todd Gillman, I appreciate it.

Melanie Sloan, thanks for your time as well tonight.

Still ahead: the penalty phase in Connecticut's home invasion trial. What were the arguments for sparing the killer's life? We will tell you what happened in court today in our "Crime & Punishment" segment.

And next: Why did Celine Dion check into the hospital? Late details on that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: So, coming up in just a few minutes, we're going to look at what happened in court today as that penalty phase of that Connecticut home invasion murder trial began.

But, first, Joe Johns has a 3 -- a 360 bulletin -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a $25,000 reward is being offered for information about who murdered two postal workers this morning at a post office in Henning, Tennessee. They were shot to death during an apparent robbery attempt, according to a Memphis newspaper. Police are reportedly on the hunt for two suspects, who are considered armed and dangerous.

A senior NATO official says Osama bin Laden and his top deputy are not holed up in a cave; instead, they're living in comfort in the tribal regions of Northwest Pakistan, possibly under the protection of members of Pakistan's intelligence service.

Pakistan has long denied that bin Laden is being protected.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is finishing up work on a $2 billion aid package that will help Pakistan fight terrorists along its border with Afghanistan.

Former NFL linebacker Junior Seau is recovering in a California hospital after his SUV went off a cliff this morning. The accident happened shortly after he was released from police custody following his arrest for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.

And, as a precaution, Celine Dion, who is pregnant with twins, has checked into a Florida hospital to make sure her babies don't arrive early. Dion is 42 years old. Her twin boys are due next month.

So, all the best to Celine Dion. COOPER: Yes. Certainly wish her well in that.

All right, Joe, up next: new information in the so-called Pirate Lake murder mystery, including new details about the grisly murder of Mexico's lead investigator in the case.

We are also going to talk to Tiffany Hartley, who says her husband was killed by bandits. Today, she finished several hours of interviews with Mexican authorities. We are going to ask her about it and hear from the Texas congressman who is sharply critical of the investigation.

Plus, the penalty phase in the trial of the man convicted of murdering a Connecticut mom and her two daughters. We will examine the tactic that his attorneys are using today to try to keep him from getting the death penalty.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, a 360 follow: the mysterious case that's become known as "The Pirate Lake Murder." You're going to recall that Tiffany Hartley claims her husband, David, was shot to death on September 30 while they were Jet Skiing on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake, possibly by gunmen linked to Mexico's violent drug cartels. David Hartley's body has not yet been found.

Well, today, Tiffany Hartley wrapped up two days of interviews with Mexican authorities at the FBI field office in McAllen, Texas. Now, we're going to speak to her shortly, but we've also learned new details about that grisly murder last week of the Mexican lead investigator in the case.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in McAllen for us tonight. Ed, what have you learned?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we've learned today that State Department officials are discounting the story that was widely circulating last week, if you'll remember, the many reports suggesting the lead investigator on the Mexican side, in this case of David Hartley, that he had been decapitated and that his beheaded head was delivered in a suitcase to an army office in a border town on the other side of the border near Falcon Lake.

We're told by a U.S. State Department official that is -- that is not what happened, that the investigator was decapitated, was murdered, but that his head was found along the road that leads to Falcon Lake, and that the rest of his remains have not been identified as -- or have been found as of yet.

This kind of falls in line with the M.O. of the Zetas cartel, which is a powerful and a brutal drug cartel that has risen to power here, strongly, really within the last year. And this has been kind of the way they do business, sending a clear message.

In fact, it reminded us of a story that we had done about a year and a half ago here for your show, Anderson, about two young teenage men that were recruited by the Zetas to be hit men. And one of the investigators in that case had talked about what it is that these Zetas, the cartel members had employed and the brutal natures of what they do when they go after the people they killed, including something called "giso."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: What's giso?

DETECTIVE ROBERT GARCIA, LAREDO, TEXAS, POLICE DEPARTMENT: Giso is the -- basically what it is. They put on the -- it's a slime, the way they did suppose of bodies. They put them in 55-gallon drums, fill them with diesel, any type of combustible liquid, and put some tires around them, and set them on fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: OK. I mean, it's incredible how violent these Zetas are. And they -- it's fascinating, their story of how they rose to prominence. Basically, they used to be law enforcement personnel, used to be special forces and then kind of started hiring themselves out as protectionists to some of the drug cartels and then basically became their own -- became their own cartel, right?

LAVANDERA: That's exactly right, Anderson. Several years ago, it started off as a group of 30 former army paramilitary special forces soldiers. They've grown much larger than that. In fact, I was speaking with the DEA official tonight that says many of the original members have already been killed in this drug gang, but two of the top leaders, Heriberto Lazcano and Miguel Trevino, are considered just absolutely brutal people. And they're the ones that have taken this drug cartel to a new level of violence. The beheadings and the torture has really gone up since these two men have risen to power.

COOPER: Yes, terrorism. What's the latest on the Hartley investigation, Ed?

LAVANDERA: Well, in terms of obviously what most people hearing -- what his family cares about most is finding his body. We understand that on the Mexican side, the physical search for the body has been suspended. And as you mentioned off the top here, Tiffany Hartley has spent many hours now with Mexican investigators. It's really moved to their prosecutors and see how they handle it from here. But the physical search for his body, so far, we understand, has stopped on the Mexican side.

COOPER: All right. Ed, appreciate the update. Thanks.

The U.S. -- the U.S. consulate, I should say, in Matamoros (ph), Mexico, has been told by Mexican authorities that they will resume the search for David Hartley's body at some point. No date, though.

Mexican officials suspended the search last week, saying they need to re-assess the strategy they're using to find them. The consulate says it's going hold Mexico to its word. That's not good enough for Texas Congressman Ted Po, who wants the U.S. government to take a greater role because, in his opinion, Mexico's attempts so far at finding David Hartley have been ineffective. He joins us now, along with Tiffany Hartley.

Tiffany, I appreciate you being with us. First of all, how are you doing? How are you holding up?

TIFFANY HARTLEY, WIDOW: Well, it's hard, because I just want my husband back. I mean, that's all that I want right now is just to be able to get him back and then start heading home and, you know, honor David and start trying to figure out what I'm going to do from here.

COOPER: And I know you were meeting with Mexican investigators for much of today. Did you get the feeling that -- that they believed you or that they didn't believe your story?

HARTLEY: No, I do believe that they believe my story. I mean, they -- we had people from the state and then, also federal. So everyone has come together to get my statement, and that's why it's taken so long, just so that everybody has the statement. Everybody can't say that they don't have it. And you know, they do believe me. I do trust that.

COOPER: A sheriff in Texas said he thinks Mexican authorities may have been trying to intimidate you into not pushing for a full investigation. Have you felt intimidated in any way?

HARTLEY: No, not at all. Just the hours that it's taken, it's between translating from Spanish to English and then them having to read everything back to me into English. So it's just been a long process, but it's over. And you know, they've got what they -- I believe they need. And they're going to continue the investigation.

And you know, I don't know when they're going to continue the search, but you know, all we want is David, and I pray that they do pick up the search again.

COOPER: You said today that you were afraid of going to Mexico. Understandably, for your safety, but also you said you feared the possibility of being arrested. Why do you think -- why do you think Mexican authorities might want to arrest you?

HARTLEY: Well, I don't really think that now. But before, when they were kind of doubting my story, I definitely was kind of like, well, are they -- if they're doubting me and I go over there, they might, you know, arrest me.

COOPER: Right.

HARTLEY: And they don't have anything to arrest me for, but there's that chance, and I just don't want to take that chance.

COOPER: Congressman, do you have any indication if or when the search for David Hartley's body will resume?

REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: I don't suspect that it will resume at all. They suspended it first at night because the lake is too dangerous. Then they suspended it last week after the head of Mr. Flores turned up. And they haven't started up, and I suspect that they won't start up again.

They're just doing a lot of talk at this point. They are, unfortunately, the Mexican side of the board are places where the law enforcement is corrupt and incompetent. There are thousands of murders in Mexico that are drug related and Mexico has a horrible record of solving them. They don't solve these homicides. So those two issues solving the case and looking for David look very bleak at this point.

COOPER: I mean, do you -- Congressman, do you frankly think that the, you know -- do you think body is still out there to be found? I mean, I hate to talk about David in this way, but I mean, do you think he's still out there to be found? These are vicious cartels we're talking about. If they wanted the body to be found, they could have easily made that happen by now.

POE: The Zetas only will allow a body to be found if they want it to be. I suspect that the body has been removed by the Zeta cartel.

And the body of Investigator Flores was found because that was a message to the Mexican government and to the American government that the Zetas have operational control of Falcon Lake at certain points to bring drugs into the United States. And it was a warning to both nations to back off, and it has so far been successful.

COOPER: Tiffany, do you feel like you're getting the help right now you need from the U.S. government and that they're doing everything they can to find David?

HARTLEY: Well, their hands are kind of tied, because we are dealing with a different country. And, you know, that's a hard thing for the U.S. government.

But I think, you know, if there's some way we could all work together and just go over there and find him, even if -- I even hate to say it. But I have to realize that maybe he's -- you know, his body is not there. But maybe they did something. But there's something, you know, DNA or something, that shows where he was at.

And I'm just pleading to the people who did this, to anybody who knows who did this, just give me my husband back. I mean that's all I want is just -- I want my husband back. I want to be able to take him home and honor him. And I'm sure somebody out there knows. Just anonymously or something, just help me bring my husband home.

COOPER: Tiffany, I know there are a lot of folks watching right now, pulling for you. And we wish you the best. And we'll continue to follow this and hope -- hope it gets resolved soon.

Congressman Poe, as well, thank you very much for your time, sir.

Still ahead tonight, the heartbreaking gruesome testimony still fresh in jurors' minds. A Connecticut mom, her two daughters, tortured and murdered in their own home. A Connecticut home-invasion horror. Will the same jury that convicted Steven Hayes now sentence him to death? That's the question. He was in court today. We'll tell you what happened on day one of the trial's penalty phase.

And the murder of Chandra Levy, ruined the congressman's career. Now the alleged killer is about to go on trial. The latest ahead.

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COOPER: "Crime & Punishment" tonight, a jury of five men and seven women today began hearing testimony in the penalty phase of a truly horrific trial.

Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, 17-year-old Haley and 11- year-old Michaela, were murdered during a 2007 home invasion. Now, we've been following the story closely. They were not killed quickly. They were tortured. Ms. Petit and Michaela were sexually assaulted, the house set on fire. None of them were shown mercy.

The same jury that convicted Steven Hayes, a career criminal, of all three murders now will decide whether to sentence him to death.

Now, the only surviving member of the Petit family, Dr. William Petit, who was beaten badly by Steven Hayes, has decided not to make a victim impact statement during the sentencing trial, because he's worried that Connecticut's law allowing such statements could lead to an appeal of Hayes' sentence.

Today Hayes' defense attorney began calling witnesses after urging jurors to try to keep an opened mind. Now, remember, during the trial's first phase they saw weeks of testimony that was so gruesome and so heartbreaking it brought a lot of them to tears.

Michael Christian is a producer for "In Session" on TruTV. He was in the courtroom today. Sunny Hostin is a legal contributor for "In Session." She joins us, as well.

This is -- Sunny, this is basically the phase about proving that Mr. Hayes' life is worth saving. How did they go about that?

SUNNY HOSTIN, LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR, TRUTV'S "IN SESSION": That is what it's about. And I think they have to humanize him to this jury. Because again, this is the same jury that convicted him of 16 out of 17 counts and found that he committed these heinous crimes. And so they're trying to make him into a person worth saving, a person that shouldn't get the ultimate penalty, the death penalty.

And that's what we saw today. We heard from five witnesses today from the defense. And we heard people that knew him as a child, knew him as a young adult, had worked with him. And they all, without fail, described him as fragile, Anderson. They described him as...

COOPER: Fragile?

HOSTIN: Fragile. As a nice guy, as a jovial guy. And they all said they were completely shocked. The wind was taken out of them when they heard that he was arrested for these crimes. COOPER: Michael, fragile, you mean like psychopathic fragile, like easy to break, or like fragile, a gentle soul?

MICHAEL CHRISTIAN, PRODUCER, TRUTV'S "IN SESSION": I think they meant fragile, easy to break. Clearly, this man had a drug habit, Anderson. He had a long history of drug abuse. And that affected many of the things that he did in life. It kept him in prison for many, many years of his adult life.

So I think that the witness that mentioned that word "fragile" was trying to say, "Look, he's on the edge. He could crumble. He wasn't leading a good life, but perhaps it's still a life worth saving."

COOPER: Michael, what -- what was the most effective thank you think from the defense's witnesses today?

CHRISTIAN: You know, we heard from one woman who's known him since he was a late teenager or in his early 20s. And she said he was always a gentleman. She said that he was always apologizing, was remorseful for his failings.

But she said that as a criminal, he was pathetic. I mean, she -- the word she used was he was a klutz. He was a klutz of a criminal. And that he was always a follower and never a leader.

Now, that's important, because the defense is going to say the real leader in this case, in this horrible, horrible crime was the co- defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, who will be tried next year.

COOPER: Right.

CHRISTIAN: The more they can paint Komisarjevsky as a terrible monster, the better, in retrospect, relatively it is for Steven Hayes.

COOPER: And Sunny, I mean, that's really what we're saying. We were just looking at, you know, pictures of the Petit family, of Mrs. Petit and her two daughters, who ended up being killed. They're saying Komisarjevsky was really the brains behind the whole thing and really did the most heinous things?

HOSTIN: No question. And that's been the theme throughout, I think, the guilt phase. And we're seeing that theme come out with the defense during the penalty phase.

What I thought was very important, very striking was the woman that had hired Steven Hayes said that Steven Hayes asked her to meet with Joshua Komisarjevsky and give him a job. And she said, and I quote, "I thought I was looking at the devil."

And I thought that that was fascinating. And Michael was in the courtroom. And I think that must have resonated with this jury. She thought she was looking at the devil.

COOPER: Michael, why did the prosecution only call one witness before resting in this phase? CHRISTIAN: All they have to do here, Anderson, is prove three statutory aggravators. And one of those aggravators is that Steven Hayes has been convicted before. So basically, they called a court clerk to read into the record some of his past convictions for burglary in the third degree. That proves that aggravator.

But what they have going for them is that every piece of evidence from the guilt phase, every horrible photograph that these jurors have looked at. Every -- every mental picture they've had of these girls tied to their beds or Mrs. Petit strangled and set on fire, that carries over into this phase, as well. And they can consider all of that evidence when they're deciding whether Steven Hayes should live or die.

COOPER: And we're looking at the video that was taken inside the bank, Mrs. Petit basically taking out $15,000, with apparently Steven Hayes waiting outside in the car for her, going to drive her back to the house.

And then things -- things went bad very, very quickly. I mean, there hadn't been much violence up until this point. But we know after these video images were taken events, Sunny, that events escalated very rapidly.

HOSTIN: That is true. And this is the same jury that heard that evidence. When they returned back to the home, allegedly Joshua Komisarjevsky told Steven Hayes, "I've sexually assaulted Michaela. Now we've got to make this even. You have to sexually assault Mrs. Petit."

And allegedly -- at least this is what Hayes confessed to -- that is why he raped Mrs. Petit and then strangled her.

COOPER: And the idea that Mr. Petit wouldn't testify to give kind of victim's impact statement, what is that about?

HOSTIN: That's really fascinating. In Connecticut, Anderson, there's really no place in the statute for a victim to testify and give a victim impact statement before the jury renders a special verdict.

And Dr. Pettit wrote a letter and indicated that he did not want his statement to really be a ground for appeal for this defendant because we know he is in support of the death penalty, especially for these two defendants.

COOPER: All right. Good to have you on, both. Thank you.

Meghan McCain what she said about the tea party favorite, Christine O'Donnell's mental state.

And a storm blamed for five deaths. That's coming up.

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COOPER: Sunny Hostin, good to have you on.

Michael Christian, as well. We're going to continue to follow this.

What Meghan McCain, coming up next, had to say about the Tea Party favorite, Christine O'Donnell's mental state.

Plus, a massive storm blamed for at least five deaths. We'll tell you more. We'll tell you where it is and where it's going, coming up.

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COOPER: Let's get you updated on some stories. Joe Johns with our "360 Bulletin."

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jury selection is under way in the trial of a man accused of killing Washington intern Chandra Levy in 2001. The 24-year-old's remains were found in a park in 2002 more than a year after she vanished.

A dangerous typhoon has swept across the Philippines, killing at least five people. The storm is packing sustained winds of about 103 miles an hour, down from a peak of 161 miles an hour over the weekend. But it is expected to regain strength as it heads over the South China Sea.

On ABC's "This Week," Meghan McCain took aim at Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell. The daughter of Arizona Republican Senator John McCain said O'Donnell is a nut job and, quote, "It scares me for a lot of reasons."

O'Donnell was also a hot topic on tonight's "Parker-Spitzer" with Republican ad maker Fred Davis, giving a different take on the controversial candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: American scientific companies are cross breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.

ELIOT SPITZER, CNN CO-HOST, "PARKER-SPITZER": That's kind of a remarkable claim for somebody who is now only a couple of points away from being elected to the United States Senate to make. Does that worry you at all? Do you say, "My goodness. This is a candidate who maybe just shouldn't be in the United States Senate"?

FRED DAVIS, REPUBLICAN AD MAKER: If you saw the debate, she has a great grasp of the issues. She has a heartfelt position on every one that will not vary.

And believe me, well, I can't give it away, because it hasn't run yet. But we're working on a new ad for her that talks about her strength. And so I've been going in the past over some of the strong statements she's made. And they're very strong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: And he may be the worst TV father who loves being obscene, but the Vatican's official newspaper has declared Homer Simpson is a Catholic along with his son, Bart.

The paper points to the 2005 episode, "The Father, The Son and the Holy Guest Star," where both characters flirt with the idea of converting to Catholicism.

An executive producer for "The Simpsons" told Reuters he was, quote, "in shock and awe" at the church's assertion.

Anderson, it does look like the Vatican forgot that episode where Homer sold his soul to the devil for a donut.

COOPER: Wow. You think they're sitting around the Vatican watching old Simpson episodes?

JOHNS: Who knew?

COOPER: Yes. Tonight's "Shot" is pretty amazing. Both the image itself and also the fact that it's the work of a father and his 7- year-old son. Take a look at this.

Earth from about 19 miles above the planet. The image apparently recorded by an HD video camera attached to a weather balloon, Luke Geisfielder (ph) and his son, rigged up the contraption. They used an iPhone 4 as a GPS tracking device for their spacecraft. They designed the balloon to burst once it reached 19 feet in diameter. Then parachute then slowed its descent back to earth.

Here's the view as the balloon came down. The camera recorded 100 minutes of video during its flight. Pretty remarkable stuff. Amazing, it landed just about 30 miles from its launch site in Newburg, New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, zero, blast off!

COOPER: That's Luke and Mack launching their capsule, not knowing yet whether their experiment would work. This is probably the dream of Richard Heene and...

JOHNS: Precisely.

COOPER: This is like the whole experiment going well.

JOHNS: When I was a kid I couldn't fly a kite.

COOPER: I know.

JOHNS: Look at these guys.

COOPER: Remember that guy once on Letterman who, like, had a bunch of weather balloons and a lawn chair, and he floated and would shoot balloons?

JOHNS: Ye, that's dangerous.

COOPER: Yes. Not a good idea. Kids don't try that at home.

Joe, I'll see you tomorrow night.

A lot more ahead at the top of the hour, starting with an attack ad that stretches truth to the breaking point, accusing a candidate of kidnapping and idol worship.

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