Return to Transcripts main page


Susan Rice's Choice; Crisis in Syria; Doctor Who Killed Own Children is Freed; Race to Find Gulf Coast Dolphin Killers

Aired December 13, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we have breaking news tonight. The woman believed to be President Obama's first choice for secretary of state says no thanks, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. She was the one who was caught up in the controversy over her statements following the murder of four Americans in Libya. She's the one, you will recall, who the president stood up for using some pretty blunt language saying that anyone who has got a problem with her has a problem with him.

Instead, there won't be co confrontation because late today Ambassador Rice took herself out of contention, writing the president that she is honored to be considered for the office, saying -- quote -- "I am fully confident that I could serve our country ably and effectively in that role. However, if nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly. That tradeoff is simply not worth it to our country."

She said more tonight to NBC News.


SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Today, I made the decision that it was the best thing for our country, for the American people that I not continue to be considered by the president for nomination as secretary of state because I didn't want to see a confirmation process that was very prolonged, very politicized, very distracting and very disruptive because there are so many things we need to get done as a country, and the first several months of a second-term president's agenda is really the opportunity to get the crucial things done.

We're talking about comprehensive immigration reform, balanced deficit reduction, job creation. That's what matters. And to the extent that my nomination could have delayed or distracted or deflected or maybe even some of these priorities impossible to achieve, I didn't want that and I would much prefer to continue doing what I'm doing which is a job I love at the United Nations.


COOPER: And President Obama accepted her decision to bow out calling her an extraordinarily capable, patriotic and passionate public servant. Here now with more on what led up to that decision and who's the leading candidate now are Dana Bash, political analyst Gloria Borger and David Gergen.

Dana, what was the pivotal moment in all this for Ambassador Rice?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No question, it was a series of meetings she had a couple of weeks ago here on the Hill, first of all, with her chief foes, Republican foes, Senators McCain, Graham and Ayotte. But more importantly it was probably with a Republican who hadn't quite made up her mind and that is the moderate Republican from Maine, Susan Collins.

By all accounts that meeting did not go well at all because, according to a source who's familiar with that meeting, she really didn't want to answer really basic questions and got frustrated and maybe even a little prickly at some of the basic questions. And after that, the feeling even among some Democrats, who talked to these Republicans, was they weren't -- really weren't sure if she can't handle meetings with U.S. senators, how was she going to be on the world stage representing the U.S. there.

So that definitely was an issue. There's no question that the president in his statement made clear that he didn't think Susan Rice was treated fairly. There's no question there was politics at play here by Republicans who were really, really angry about Benghazi and she illustrated that, but it was more than that. It was also personality driven because even Democrats think that she's very smart, very capable, but maybe doesn't have the right personality for this job.

COOPER: Gloria, earlier I heard you say that you think that Ambassador Rice probably just underestimated the club. What did you mean by that?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, I spoke with -- that was from a Democrat, very close to the White House, who said the club is really important on Capitol Hill. John Kerry is the leader in that club. John McCain likes him an awful lot and would clearly go along with that nomination.

Also when she traveled up there, and she wanted to go up there to talk to these senators, there is a sense from the source that she kind of overestimated her ability to woo them over on the question of Benghazi. I mean that was a really big pre-existing condition for her, and as Dana just pointed out, she didn't win over Susan Collins, who was quite important to her.

COOPER: And, David, I mean what do you make of this? Is this just a sign of how partisan things have become or was it pretty clear from -- as soon as the controversy over Benghazi, the comments began, that it wasn't going to happen?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think this is just about partisanship. And I don't -- also, Anderson, I don't think it's just about Benghazi. That was an issue, of course. But in this case there are a number of senators on both sides of the aisle who believe that the United States has some tough work ahead in international relations.

You know, someone has got to go and negotiate with the Iranians to make sure we don't get into a conflict over there. And someone with the kind of toughness and sagacity and authority of a Jim Baker. And frankly there was a sense about Susan Rice that even though she is very talented and I think she did a generous thing today by withdrawing, she really was loyal to her president by doing that.

But there was also a sense that she didn't have the weight, she didn't have the background that Senator Kerry does. And he is extremely schooled and knows a -- the rough parts of the world. And there was a sense in the Senate, you know, that people there would just be more comfortable with him representing the United States.

COOPER: David, what do you think this says about President Obama himself? Because it certainly seemed like, especially in the last month or so, that he was digging in his heels, preparing for a fight?

GERGEN: Well, it did seem like that, and I -- and I -- there was also -- you know, there have been various reports that he's been agonizing over this choice and in a sense she let him off. She recognized his agony and removed it. And I -- but it's -- I think one can read into this that he doesn't want a series of fights with Republicans across the board. He's got a big fight on his hands on the fiscal cliff. And you know, it may be just one struggle too many when he wants to get his second term off and running. And he doesn't want to be ensnared like this.

This happens to presidents. And as we've had some really good people who have not made it through this process, I remember so well the iconic figure Ted Sorenson who was nominated to be CIA chief and it sort of just fell apart after time. And Ted Sorenson went on to great things and he will always be well remembered, but it was a tough chapter in his life.

BORGER: Anderson, you were just talking about the Senate being more comfortable with John Kerry. I think in a way the president would have been a lot more comfortable with Susan Rice. She's an old friend of his. It's not that he doesn't like John Kerry. John Kerry helped him out during the debates, he's known him for a long time.

Susan Rice is a dear old friend. And there's -- you know, there's another issue here which is the question of diversity, because if it -- if it sort of all stacks up, as we think it's going, it looks like the top four Cabinet posts can now potentially be filled by men, and I'm sure that that's something the White House really is thinking about.

COOPER: And, Dana, I mean, this team that looked to be falling into place, Chuck Hagel, they're talking about a Republican for defense to replace Panetta, does it seem like a team that can actually make it through the confirmation in the Senate if John Kerry is also involved? BASH: It does, unless there's something that we just don't know about, for example, the former Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, certainly a very important member of the club, the Senate club, he didn't make it through because there was a surprise issue with his tax returns four years ago.

With regard to John Kerry, even the Republican leader late today said kind words about him. It is -- it is virtually sure that he is going to get through the Senate because he has been vetted in many ways because he was the presidential candidate. You know, that you don't get more vetted than that.

With regard to Chuck Hagel, same thing. He is somebody who maybe didn't have the closest relationships here, but the fact that it would be a bipartisan pick because he is a Republican would go a long way likely. So, yes, it does look like it's shaping up.

The one thing I will say about Susan Rice is the sort of vetting here on Capitol Hill is that the president is looking to her to be maybe his national security adviser. First of all, that's more inherently political, it's a job inside the White House, and more importantly she wouldn't need Senate confirmation.

COOPER: Interesting. Dana, Gloria, and David, thanks very much.

"Raw Politics" now and high stakes when it comes to the taxes you pay, the size of government, the economy, the works. President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner back at it meeting tonight trying once again to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff.

The question is, will it be any different this time? Let's check in right now request with Jessica Yellin.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. Well, tonight the two men met for 50 minutes in the Oval Office as they struggle to find a way out of this stalemate and so far no word of a breakthrough. Aides to both men described the conversation as frank and we're told that lines of communication remain open. Now that is political speak, and I will translate it for you.

Frank, that generally means that the conversation was somewhat tense. Lines of communication remains open, that means that the two men's staff will continue talking. And in fact I have confirmed that there is no current plan for the two men, the president and Speaker Boehner, to have a follow-up meeting as of yet. And Speaker Boehner does plan to return home to Ohio tomorrow.

Now that's a challenge because for a deal to come together because they are running out of time. They are all but out of time to get a deal done before the Christmas deadline, and next to out of time to get one done before the new year.

Now what they're looking, the two men, their fundamental demands have not changed. Speaker Boehner is looking for the president to do more on spending cuts. The president looking for the GOP to agree to raise rates on the top 2 percent. So far neither side has given -- the Republicans we understand have not given on the rates. The president hasn't given enough on the spending cuts for the Republicans to be happy. So, again, we are at stalemate. We are told that the Republicans in Congress, some of them have been asked to cancel their vacations and plan to be here for at least part of the holidays. So, so far not a lot of progress to report -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jessica, thanks very much.

Let us know what you think. You can follow me on Twitter right now @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight.

Up next: an outbreak of a deadly disease and allegations about what officials at one hospital system knew about the risks long before anyone died.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" now, looking for facts tonight, not offering opinion or playing favorites. Our goal tonight is just real reporting, as it is every night, finding the truth and calling out hypocrisy. But tonight the stakes are life and death.

Every year millions of Americans who put their lives on the line for their country check into VA hospitals. Tens of millions get treatment in VA clinics and all deserve the best care possible. Certainly none should ever expect that a trip to the hospital might make them sick or might even kill them.

Yet one Pittsburgh area family says that is exactly what happened to their dad and there could be more cases like his. He was treated in Pittsburgh's VA Hospital System, one of the most highly regarded in the nation and may have died because of what he caught there, Legionnaire's disease, a potentially deadly bacterial infection that spreads in contaminated water supplies.

And what makes this story even more troubling is the evidence that CNN has now uncovered. It shows that hospital officials knew about the problem and yet apparently they failed to fix it. And since January of last year, last year, there have been at least five cases directly traceable to the VA Hospital System in Pittsburgh, but only last month did the VA admit they had a problem with their water supply.

They said so in a news release and issued two more, including one that said the problem has been solved. Apart from news releases, though, they're simply not talking. However, Drew Griffin tonight is investigating.


BOB NICKLAS, SON OF WILLIAM NICKLAS: He firmly believed that the VA was going to give him the best care they could possibly give him.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Knowing what you know now, did the VA give him the best care possible?

NICKLAS: No. No, they didn't. I mean, I can say there was strong negligence on the VA's part.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Bob Nicklas is talking about his father, Bill. A world War II Navy hero, who would drop into hostile waters to save downed Navy pilots. But Bill Nicklas died the day after Thanksgiving from heart failure and Legionnaire's Disease. He contracted it from using the water at the VA, which was contaminated with high levels of a bacteria known as Legionella, the cause of Legionnaire's Disease.

Two other families are wondering whether their veterans contracted the Legionnaire's Disease that killed them from this same Pittsburgh VA.

CNN has now learned that hospital officials knew they had a problem with the water system as far back as December of last year, but chose not to reveal any of that publicly until a month ago.

DAVID NICKLAS, SON OF WILLIAM NICKLAS: Being a veteran myself, I am shocked and appalled that the VA would put, you know, their veterans in that type of situation.

GRIFFIN: Records obtained by CNN show that over the past year the amount of disinfectant in the VA's water was less than the amount needed to prevent Legionella bacteria from reaching dangerous levels, and internal records from a water quality company called Liquitech show that in December of 2011, an inspection found they have Legionella. Systems not being properly maintained.

A site visit by the same company five months later found the problems continued. Obvious evidence that the systems had not been properly, regularly maintained.

Tory Schira's company Liquitech is the contractor who installed the VA's water system, and a system like it in hundreds of other hospitals across the country. He says it is inexplicable that the VA hospital in Pittsburgh knew it had a problem, was warned about it, and did not fix it.

TORY SCHIRA, LIQUITECH: They were not cleaning the flow cells, they were not doing the monitoring. They were not doing the things that are critical to the efficacy of the system.

GRIFFIN (on camera): And did you tell the hospital?

SCHIRA: Yes, we did. Yes, we did. We told them -- we actually had two audits and told them twice that they were deficient in their maintenance.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): What is so frustrating to Schira is if the system had just been maintained, if the hospital had just listened and made simple adjustments, he says he believes lives could have been saved.

SCHIRA: Absolutely. Absolutely.

GRIFFIN (on camera): One hundred percent? SCHIRA: One hundred percent.

GRIFFIN: As is done in all the other hospitals that you service?


JANET STOUT, DIRECTOR, SPECIAL PATHOGEN LABORATORY: This outbreak was absolutely preventable.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Dr. Janet Stout, with her colleague, Dr. Victor Yu, worked for more than 20 years at this same Pittsburgh VA Hospital researching Legionnaire's Disease. They were pioneers in the field, developing the copper silver ionization filtration system which is still being used as Pittsburgh's VA and in hospitals nationwide.

Six years ago in a controversial move, the doctors and their Legionella research lab were told by the VA their services were not productive and a drain on clinical resources. The doctors say for a decade before they left, not a single patient got Legionnaire's from the hospital's water. She says if she were still there monitoring the water, this entire tragedy would have been prevented with the turn of a knob.

STOUT: So this is not, you know, as they say, rocket science. This is straightforward.

GRIFFIN: So what went wrong? Our calls and e-mails to the VA went unanswered, so "Keeping Them Honest," we went to the United States Veterans Administration Hospital in Pittsburgh in hopes of getting answers. We were met by four armed federal officers.

(on camera): Hey, how are you? Drew Griffin with CNN. Nice to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're with the VA Police.

GRIFFIN: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. This has not been approved by our Public Affairs Office. I cannot allow you on the property.

GRIFFIN: I'm calling Public Affairs right now.


GRIFFIN: Do you want to call them and see if they'll come on out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't technically call them. Can you take the camera back across the street until you have authorization, please? GRIFFIN: Hold on, I'm on the phone with them right now.

(voice-over): After yet again reaching only a message machine, the officer told us to leave.

(on camera): Who told you to kick us off of here? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's our policy actually.

GRIFFIN: Your policy? We can't stand on United States government land with a camera?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without a legitimate purpose for being here.

GRIFFIN: Well, I have a purpose. I'm trying to find out why these patients died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And being news media while recording, OK, I'm going to have to ask you to leave until it's approved by our Public Affairs Office.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Instead of answering our questions, the VA spokesperson, David Cowgill, has released three media advisories, the last one on the day we visited read in a voicemail.

DAVID COWGILL, PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER: VA is committed to providing safe facilities and quality care for veterans.

GRIFFIN: The advisory goes on to say that an investigation is under way and that --

COWGILL: Testing results indicate the remediation at Pittsburgh VA Medical Center University Drive has been successful.

GRIFFIN: Bill Nicklas' flag still flies on the front lawn that he mowed himself. He would have turned 88 this past weekend. Instead of celebrating his birthday, his family held a memorial service.

D. NICKLAS: They should have the best and utmost care that anybody else even better than a normal civilian. I mean they fought for their country, they -- you know, they go to battle. They -- you know, they love their country and where do they go? They go to a hospital and they basically die in there.


GRIFFIN: Anderson, let me tell you just a little bit more about Bill Nicklas. This guy, drafted at 17 years old into the U.S. Navy. He would drive 30 miles out of his way past two other hospitals just to go to the VA, because he thought he would get better care there as a veteran, which is why his sons really feel let down by this.

COOPER: You said in your piece that we know of three possible deaths due to this Legionella at the hospital, but there actually could be more deaths, right? GRIFFIN: Certainly. All the information on these cases, 29 cases, is coming from the hospital. This has been going on for a year now, Anderson. I think a lot of health care professionals, a lot of families, quite frankly, are going to look back over this year, look back at the family members they may have lost, and begin asking questions about what this was that killed their loved one. Could it have been this Legionnaire's Disease.

COOPER: And who besides us are trying to get answers on this? And is the VA still refusing to talk to you?

GRIFFIN: Yes, they will not come out. As you saw in that piece, they won't talk to us at all. The VA in Pittsburgh referred us to the Washington P.R. division who sent us right back to Pittsburgh. It's been a mess. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they did send a team there in November to investigate this.

We're told that the investigation, the results from the CDC will go to the VA in the coming weeks. We're not sure if that's going to be released to the public.

COOPER: And I still can't understand why the VA did nothing when they knew they had a problem?

GRIFFIN: Actually, Anderson, we found out that about six months ago the VA did bring in a consultant who made recommendations on how to fix the water, but the VA apparently did not tell that consultant that they had Legionnaire's cases at the hospital. If they had told the consultants that there would have been different recommendations. The VA would have been told to handle it differently. And we just don't know why, because the VA won't talk to us.

COOPER: That's unbelievable. Drew, appreciate it, thanks.

Well, a CNN exclusive ahead: a truly breathtaking display of courage by a Syrian teenager. He risked his life to save a stranger, an older woman who was hit by a sniper. That's him crawling along the ground trying to rescue this lady.

Arwa Damon's report is next.


COOPER: Two children killed, a brother and sister, just 3 and 5 years old. Each stabbed more than a dozen times. Their killer, their own father, who was a doctor. He's now a free man. We'll tell you why coming up.


COOPER: Tonight a 360 exclusive from Syria. An extraordinary display of bravery and a sniper's alley with bullets flying. A teenage boy, who risked his life, says he's no hero, that he did what countless others do every day. We're going to show you that in a moment. But first, new signs that defeat could be near for Bashar al- Assad's regime. Today Russia, Syria's most powerful ally, said Assad is losing control of his country and admitted the opposition could win. NATO's leader went even further saying the regime is approaching collapse.

Now their comments came as opposition groups claimed to seize a military base near Damascus. Meantime, the Syrian state television said at least two dozen civilians were killed in two car bombings outside of Damascus. Seven children were said to be among those killed in this blast.

In a nearby town, eight people, mostly women and children, were reported killed in this bombing according to state television.

Tonight Assad shows no outward signs of backing down, however, and in hot spots like Aleppo civilians are still dying in the crossfire.

Now to that act of incredible courage that was caught on tape. Here's Arwa Damon's exclusive report.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A fighter slithers across the street, his body covered. Yards away a woman lies motionless. She's been shot by a sniper. Her rescuer is not a relative, nor a neighbor. He's never met her.

Abdullah de-Fahan is just 17. He knew he had to save the woman or die trying. When we met him later, he tells us, "We had a feeling that she was still alive. We wanted to save her, to get her to a hospital."

As he crawls closer, he can see her hand. Her fingers shaking.

"Cover him, cover him," someone shouts. Other fighters lay down cover fire. Abdullah quickly ties the hose to her legs, but he's unable to retreat.

"I said to myself, if I die, it's god's will that I die next to this woman," he tells us.

Finally, he makes a run for it, and the rebels drag the woman back.

(on camera): The woman and her son were walking right down the street there. Rebel fighters shouted at them to stay away but it was too late. Aleppo is crisscrossed with similar sniper alleys. Some are known, but others do not reveal themselves until the first shot has been fired.

(voice-over): Despite Abdullah's efforts, the woman dies, her son utterly distraught. "Don't die now. Don't die today," he pleads. "Answer me, mom. Answer me. She's not dead. She's not dead," he says as he collapses.

Abdullah Hafez (ph) is left wondering whether her life could have been saved if he'd reached her sooner. Until recently he worked at a bakery. Now, like thousands of young Syrians, he puts his life on the line.

"I am not a hero. I am just like anyone else," Abdullah Hafez (ph) tells us. And we're left to wonder, how many similar acts of courage go unrecorded every day in Syria, and how many innocents are lost?

Arwa Damon, CNN, Aleppo.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Arwa Damon reporting.

There's a lot more happening tonight. Isha is here with a "360 Bulletin."

ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: Anderson, the Taliban has taken credit for a suicide bombing in Afghanistan that killed at least three people, including one American. The attack happened near Kandahar's air field just hours after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta left the city.

For the first time we're getting a look at North Korea's first apparent successful launch of a long-range missile, courtesy of the state-run news agency. The country's leader, Kim Jung-Un, celebrated with soldiers.

The remains of music star Jenni Rivera have been identified and returned to her family. Rivera and six others are believed to have died in Sunday's plane crash in Mexico. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

And two men arrested in a murder-for-hire plot were planning on castrating and killing Justin Bieber, that's according to police in New Mexico and Vermont. The suspects, a convicted felon and his 23- year-old nephew, were allegedly hired by an inmate in New Mexico infatuated with the pop music star -- Anderson.

COOPER: Isha, thanks.

Much more ahead, including a mother's grief and outrage. Her young son and daughter were viciously stabbed to death by their own father. He confessed, but now he's free. Coming up, his ex-wife's fight to make sure no other family suffers what she's endured.


COOPER: Well, her death shocked the world. Now British police are releasing new information about the nurse who apparently took her own life after transferring a prank call to a ward treating Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. What they're saying about the circumstances surrounding her death, next.


COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment," a mother whose young children were viciously stabbed to death is reeling tonight. Their killer is back on the streets. He was released from a mental-health facility just yesterday.

The case is as controversial as it is horrifying. Five-year-old Olivier and his 3-year-old sister, Ann Sophie (ph), were stabbed to death in their own beds. Each child had more than a dozen wounds.

As horrible as those facts alone are, it gets worse. Their father, a physician, is the one who killed them and he confessed. But a Canadian jury ruled that he wasn't criminally responsible because of his mental state at the time. Instead of prison, he was sent to a mental-health facility.

Now he's free, and he has no criminal record. His ex-wife, who's also a doctor, fought hard to keep that from happening. Paula Newton has more.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Isabel Gaston pores over her own children's autopsy reports, she wishes she had no idea what they meant. But as a physician and a coroner, she knows it's true. Her children suffered long, gruesome deaths.

ISABEL GASTON, MOTHER: I knew that it was not a short death. My little boy received 20 -- 20 stabs of a knife. He had seven marks of defense. He had no wound that was the one that gave him death.

NEWTON (on camera): So there was no mercy?

GASTON: No. My little girl had 19 wounds. Maybe she was luckier, because she had one that was more mortal than the other, but she felt the 19 shots for sure.

NEWTON (voice-over): But this was no random act of violence. The knife was wielded by Olivier and Ann-Sophie's own father and Gaston's ex-husband, cardiologist Dr. Guy Turcotte.

GASTON: To know that my children faced the person that they should have trust the most, and they were left by themself to die, no one holding their hand, I struggle, OK. I struggle all the day, every day of my life, and until I die I will struggle.

NEWTON: Dr. Turcotte admits he killed his children in 2009, and yet now he is a free man, even possibly free to practice medicine again.

In 2010 a Canadian jury failed to convict Turcotte of the murders, finding him not criminally responsible due to mental illness.

Dr. Turcotte killed his children on what was supposed to be a family movie night. This surveillance video shows him renting videos with his children just hours before he brutally stabbed them in their bed.

These were troubling times for Dr. Turcotte. He was separated from his wife. She had left him for another man. Dr. Turcotte said he suffered a blackout and does not remember stabbing the children. The verdict is being appealed.

(on camera) Do you believe he was mentally insane when he committed the murders, and do you believe he's mentally insane now?

GASTON: No, no.


GASTON: Why should I, that I don't accept he is mentally ill, is when I look at the facts, OK. We have a person that's a cardiologist that never has had a psychiatric incident, never, not at all.

NEWTON (voice-over): The jury, though, believed the testimony of two psychiatrists presented by the defense. They testified that Dr. Turcotte could not have known what he was doing when he repeatedly stabbed 5-year-old Olivier and 2-year-old Ann-Sophie.

GASTON: I'm a little bit mad, because you know, I have to respect their decision, so it confronts me and my values, but I think they didn't do their job.

NEWTON: Dr. Turcotte is now a free man with no criminal record, and he says he's not taking any medication for mental illness. The only conditions of his release are that he continue with therapy and stay away from his ex-wife and her family. He must also go before the review panel that released him in a year.

The medical professionals currently treating Dr. Turcotte and the psychiatric experts who gave testimony at his trial have told CNN they do not wish to comment on the case.

Dr. Gaston says she fears for her life now and believes the psychiatrists that testified on his behalf did not evaluate him long enough. She is calling for stricter guidelines when psychiatric testimony is presented in court. She says she has never believed her ex-husband was mentally ill, and even if he was, he could not now be cured in little more than three years.

GASTON: What I'm saying, I have question. I'm a mother, but I'm also a doctor.

NEWTON (on camera): You hope it will help other victims in the future?

GASTON: Yes, I hope. And you know what, I'm very convinced. I'm willing to lose my health; I'm willing to lose my economy status; I'm willing to lose my professional status; I'm willing to lose my life. I'm willing to go very far in this battle. And I'm really, really convinced that it has to change.

NEWTON: Did you ever ask him why he did it?

GASTON: I wanted to ask him, but, you know, the response that he's going to give me, if he doesn't tell me the truth, that is my truth that I know is for vengeance, you know. He will invent everything, and that's what he did in court, you know.

NEWTON: And Dr. Gaston says she believes it will be an important test case to possibly limit claims of mental insanity and better scrutinize the medical evidence needed to prove it.


COOPER: That is such a horrific crime. Paula Newton joins me now. Paula, what's been the reaction to this release?

NEWTON: Outrage, really, throughout the country, felt most acutely here in Montreal here today, Anderson. Everyone was talking about it.

And the outrage stems from two thing. I mean, one of the things in the headlines, look, Anderson, this guy stabbed his children 46 times. He confessed to it. He served 46 months, not all of it in prison. He is a free man right now.

Add to that that the mental facility actually said, look, this guy does present a risk to society. We don't know how he'll behave in the future, but he needs to be free and we can manage that risk.

Anderson, I'll remind you. There will be no police officer following him around. Not anything like that. And the public wants to know why.

COOPER: I mean, that's -- it's just incredible. And for such a short amount of time that he actually was in this mental-health facility. What is next for him?

NEWTON: Well, this is the other outrageous thing people are telling me. In his testimony as to why he wanted to be released, he said he wanted to lead a normal life, Anderson. He's going to apply again to practice medicine. He is a cardiologist. He doesn't have any complaints against him in terms of, you know, the kind of care he had for his patients. He is free to be a doctor again if he gets licensed once more.

And again, the only thing that the mother, Isabelle Gaston keeps relying upon is an appeal in the new year.

COOPER: That's just extraordinary. Paula Newton. We'll continue to follow it. Thank you.

Still ahead, a murder mystery with a twist. Dolphins are turning up dead along the Gulf Coast but who or what is killing them? Ed Lavandera has a special report ahead.


COOPER: A murder mystery along the Gulf Coast is deepening tonight. Mutilated bodies of dolphins have been washing ashore all year. And in recent weeks the pace has picked up dramatically. As many as ten dead dolphins have been found. The discovery is gruesome, disturbing and frankly baffling.

Could it be the work of some kind of a serial killer? And if so, why would anyone want to harm dolphins? That's what a lot of people are wondering tonight. The race to solve the mystery has been intensifying. Ed Lavandera reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hunt is on.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The hunt is on... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to do a routine safety check.

LAVANDERA: ... for a dolphin killer.

(on camera) The dolphin case is in the back of your mind?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. We're not going to come out and ask him, you know, are you shooting dolphins?

Permission to come on board?

We're going to actually look and see if there's any evidence as far as firearms and such like that.

Firearms? Guns.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Officer Leo DeGeorge and a Mississippi marine patrol unit are searching any boat they can find, trying to unravel the mysterious and disturbing case of murdered dolphins washing up along the Gulf Coast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to go down below and take a look, see what I can find out.

LAVANDERA: There's a growing sense of urgency. Between January and November of this year, seven slain dolphins have been found. But in the last two weeks, two more dolphins and a part of a third washed ashore. Some have been shot, some mutilated with tails and a jaw cut off. Only the head of one dolphin was recently found on a beach. Many pictures too gruesome to show.

(on camera) So the one thing it all has in common is that all these dolphins have turned up along these little barrier islands along the Gulf Coast?


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Moby Solangi is the lead biologist at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Mississippi. He's analyzed the corpses of all the dolphins for federal investigators at NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There now could be as many as ten murdered dolphins, the majority discovered in the last two months.

(on camera) What do you take away from all that?

SOLANGI: Well, it looks like somebody is deranged. It's really senseless. It's repugnant, it's illegal. I don't understand what type of person would do such a cruel act.

LAVANDERA: When we first started asking questions about the dead dolphins a few weeks ago, we asked federal investigators if they thought this could be the work of a dolphin serial killer or killers. They told us then that that was not one of their theories, but since then, three more dolphins have washed ashore, and those federal investigators now say they can't comment on an active criminal investigation.

You've seen these animals up close. Were you able to see anything that kind of leads you to believe that it might have been the work of one person?

SOLANGI: Well, it's really hard for us to do, because all we can do as scientists is report the fact. These investigative agencies and people who are trained to determine what kind of connections and what type of profile a person has.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Federal investigators told us a few weeks ago they think the murders are not connected. But along this coastline today, many people are wondering if there's a deranged dolphin serial killer or killers hunting these beloved creatures.

On patrol, wild dolphins bob up and down all around us. The mysterious string of dolphin killings is something these officers have never seen.

(on camera) What's your biggest fear about the way all of this is playing out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest fear? More of them. And why would somebody do this? I don't know how they're getting a thrill out of this.

LAVANDERA: And the search intensifies for a predator lurking around these waters.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, on the Mississippi sound.


COOPER: Well, now Isha joins us again with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, British police say the apparent suicide of the nurse who transferred a prank call to the ward treating Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is not suspicious. They say a co-worker found her hanging in the hospital's living quarters. She left three suicide notes, but police are not revealing their contents.

Software pioneer John McAfee is back in the U.S. after he says he was deported from Guatemala. McAfee entered the country after police in Belize wanted to question him in his neighbor's murder.

And fiscal cliff fears being felt on Wall Street, the Dow dropping 74 points despite the release of upbeat economic data.

Now many merchants are sweating it out these last two weeks until Christmas to see if weak consumer confidence hurts their bottom line. But in Washington some community leaders are pointing to a local marketing initiative as proof that even tough economies can be beaten. Tom Foreman has tonight's "American Journey."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You ever travel around the whole world, what you will notice is this is the normal way to do business.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Far from the malls in the middle of downtown D.C., the Holiday Market is once again swinging to life with old-world charm. For eight years now, even through the darkest days of recession, it has been a steadily growing story of success for hundreds of artisans and craft dealers selling product from around the globe.

Michael Berman helps run the market, which was started in part it draw more shoppers to the area.

(on camera) How many people come through here?

MICHAEL BERMAN, HELPS RUN HOLIDAY MARKET: We're getting about 10,000 people a day. And this past Saturday, we were so crowded, I think the number might have been doubled.

FOREMAN (voice-over): For small vendors, those crowds are pure gold. Ashley Robertson is a soap maker from Virginia whose inventory has already almost sold out.

ASHLEY ROBERTSON, SOAP MAKER: How much? Oh, my gosh, we brought a bus, and we've almost emptied it. A bus full of stock, yes.

FOREMAN: Ron Miskin (ph) came all the way from Texas to offer buffalo hats.

(ON CAMERA) And you've sold how many?


FOREMAN: In what period of time?


FOREMAN: A week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. If you walk up and down the street here, you're going to see a bunch of them here in the next couple of hours.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The market has also proven a great place for vendors to test products before opening traditional brick-and- mortar stores.

BERMAN: Without the burden, of jumping into the deep end of the pool with rent and insurance and all the heavy-duty investment that you have to do. But once you know you're going to be successful, now -- now you can go forward.

FOREMAN (on camera): And you've had that happen here a lot?

BERMAN: We have. We have. FOREMAN (voice-over): Stalls are now so prized and space so limited, there's simply not enough room for all the vendors who want to be here. But for those who are chosen each year for a few lucky weeks...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me just put it on there.

FOREMAN: ... the holidays are truly cause for celebration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh great. Thank you.

FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


SESAY: And it is good to see. Anderson will be right back with "The RidicuList."


COOPER: Time for "The RidicuList." And tonight we're adding something I'm calling the CNBC Danger Zone. And no, that's not the name of a new show in which Maria Bartiromo and Warren Buffett go rock climbing. Though frankly I think it should be.

The CNBC Danger Zone is what developed when noted economist Glenn Hubbard sat down for an interview with CNBC anchor Melissa Lee. Everything was going fine until I can only assume the NBC peacock got a little feisty off camera.


GLENN HUBBARD, ECONOMIST: They either have to raise taxes or cut some other spending. That forces the Congress to think about the mix between taxes, spending outside of the entitlements and spending on the entitlements. That's just not something that our framers thought about because we -- we didn't have a welfare state in those days.


COOPER: First of all, I love how he continued on, making his points. That, Ali Velshi, that is what you call a pro.

Second of all, you will not see CNN guests running into that kind of problem. That's right. We do not waste our money on fancy, dangerous signs for our remote locations. All David Gergen needs is some lip gloss and a lava lamp, and he's good to go.

Now that said, that being said, CNN anchors actually have encountered some on-set mishaps, and it turns out it is a global problem.




COOPER: Loosely translated, that was "Damn you, Wolf Blitzer. Of course there are a lot of potential hazards for folks on TV. Sometimes a sign falls, sometimes the lights fall, and sometimes, as our friend from WSMV reminds us, even the reporter falls.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And look, they're big. This one is about 12 pounds, but they can grow to...


COOPER: I'm telling you, never work with animals or fish. It is all fun and games until you have to pry a large-mouthed bass off Gary Tuchman's neck.

But back to that CNBC incident. This guest was a pro. This anchor was a pro. No harm done. I just want to point out, though, that CNBC still has a long way to go if it really wants to make history in the financial news blooper department.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At no point were you running a gym?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. Running a gym? To work out or something? Jesus (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Christ. I come on the news for two seconds and you want to -- every time I do an interview, a guy wants to open his (EXPLETIVE DELETED) mouth. Can't you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) a routine here. Go (EXPLETIVE DELETED) yourself, you know what.


COOPER: Oh! Oh! Yes, that was Andrew Dice Clay being interviewed for some reason on the now defunct CNNfn by Allan Chernoff, who definitely would have been better off trying to hold onto a fish while standing in a boat.

As for you, CNBC, that's right. You got our attention with your collapsing sign, but we're holding out for at least a moderate to extreme person. Until then, the Danger Zone will have to wait for the closing bell on "The RidicuList."

OK, that's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.