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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Housekeeper Husband Gives New Light to D.C. Murder Mystery; Nearly 34 Million Vehicles Recalled Over Airbags; Conan And Kimmel On Looking Up To Letterman. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 19, 2015 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:05] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obviously, Bill and I have been blessed. And we're very grateful for the opportunities that we had. But we have never forgotten where we came from.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: But those questions are hardly the only ones she's facing.

Even Democrats have been calling on her to take a stand on trade. But, today, she walked a careful line.

CLINTON: I want to judge the final agreement. I have been for trade agreements. I have been against trade agreements.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: And that probably is the perfect example of how she won't ever be able to win here, and people will always be asking her to take even more questions on trade in particular.

She kind of walked it right down the middle there. But -- so she took five questions today. That will take care of it for a little while. But, Jake, I can tell you, people will be asking her to take even more next time. She will be in New Hampshire later this week -- Jake.

TAPPER: Those greedy, greedy reporters and their questions about issues.

ZELENY: And voters.

TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny -- and voters, right, of course, lest we forget them. Thank you.

New clues now on a murder mystery just blocks from the vice president's residence in Washington, a car engulfed in flames likely driven by the suspected killer.

Plus, we're just learning about a visit from the housekeeper's husband to the house the morning of the murders. What happened when he banged on the door of the mansion? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:35:28]

TAPPER: We're back with some breaking details just coming in on our national lead.

The husband of a housekeeper killed in a D.C. mansion murder is giving us new insight into what may have happened. But, still, we have no clear answer into who killed a D.C. businessman, his wife, his 10- year-old son and housekeeper inside their multimillion-dollar mansion.

New video shows the family Porsche on fire. Someone torched it, then left it in a church parking lot in a D.C. suburban Maryland. That same person may have been the one who set the family's house on fire, but not before possibly holding them hostage for hours.

Savvas Savopoulos -- sorry -- Savopoulos -- left a suspicious voice- mail the night before his body was found, that voice-mail now possibly a clue into what was really happening in his home.

CNN's Pamela Brown joins me now live in the D.C. neighborhood where the bodies were discovered.

Pamela, give us this new information from the housekeeper's husband.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're learning actually from the family of the second housekeeper who actually wasn't at work that day that the husband of the deceased housekeeper came to the house on that Thursday morning, the day of the incident, pounded on the door. He was looking for his wife. He didn't know she was spending the night here.

No one answered the door. And then after that, apparently, he received a call from Mr. Savopoulos, who told him that he meant to tell him that his wife was spending the night here, but that she was OK, but that she wasn't home at the time.

We know, hours after that, this house was intentionally set on fire, according to investigators, this new information only deepening the mystery.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): A chilling piece of evidence in the deaths of a wealthy D.C. family and their housekeeper. Firefighters captured this video of the family's Porsche in flames in Lanham, Maryland, apparently set on fire in broad daylight. Perhaps one of the most promising clues is this grainy video showing a person of interest who may have driven off in the Porsche.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier:

CATHY LANIER, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA POLICE CHIEF: We have released this video now of a person of interest that we're asking. And we're getting some tips in. So I think that's helpful. BROWN: The family, 46-year-old Savvas Savopoulos, CEO of a building

manufacturer, his wife, Amy, and their 10-year-old son, Philip, as well as their 57-year-old housekeeper, Veralicia Figueroa, were found dead inside this charred $4.5 million home in this ritzy D.C. neighborhood just a few blocks from Vice President Joe Biden's house and several embassies.

911 OPERATOR: 3201 Woodland Drive Northwest.

911 OPERATOR: There's fire in the attic.

BROWN: Adding to the mystery, a voice-mail and text message from the family to their other housekeeper, Nelitza.

The night before the murders, Mr. Savopoulos left her a voice-mail telling her not to come to work the next day because his wife was sick and the other housekeeper would be spending the night at the family's home. Then, three hours before the blaze, Nelitza told CNN's Gary Tuchman that Amy Savopoulos sent a text message telling her, "I'm making sure you do not come to work today."

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When you got that text, were you thinking that that was strange or unusual to get a text like that?

NELITZA GUTIERREZ, HOUSEKEEPER: Yes.

QUESTION: What did you first think when you got it?

GUTIERREZ: I call her right away.

QUESTION: Did she answer?

GUTIERREZ: No.

BROWN: Hours later, police say the house was intentionally set on fire. Three of the four victims were found to have suffered from blunt-force trauma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It certainly sounds like there was a connection between the husband and the wife and whoever committed this homicide.

BROWN: Police say it could take another week to gather all of the evidence from the scene of the crime.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And we have seen crews inside the house today combing through the evidence. In fact, a ladder truck was here earlier so that an investigator could be hoisted up to look at the security cameras on the edge of the roof.

And, Jake, making this story even more heartbreaking, the Savopoulos apparently have two daughters who are away at boarding school outside of D.C. -- Jake.

TAPPER: Pamela Brown live in D.C., thank you so much, Pamela. Appreciate it.

I want to bring in Harry Houck. He's a retired detective for the NYPD and a CNN law enforcement analyst.

Harry, thanks so much for joining us.

HARRY HOUCK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: So, in your opinion, this is not a random break-in?

HOUCK: No, without a doubt.

They don't -- you don't slaughter a whole family for a break-in. You would never see it. As a detective responding to a scene like this, you have got to rule things out pretty quickly. And that's one of the things that you rule out pretty quickly. This is not a typical burglary.

All right? The first thing you actually think of is basically a murder-suicide when it's a family like this. But that has been ruled out already.

[16:40:02]

So, we have got two possibilities here. We either have a retribution murder, where somebody in the family had something against someone or someone had something against them, and they came and they killed the family, or we have a robbery homicide here. All right?

I'm tending to think it's more of a robbery homicide, based on what I'm seeing. Of course, I could be wrong. But there's a lot we don't know about this case yet. And what's really important to me is, where were the bodies found, all right?

We know that the perpetrator somehow made his way into the house and that the -- there's no -- no visible sign of a break-in. All right? That's a possibility that -- you know, that maybe he knew somebody in the house. I believe that the reason why all these people are dead is because they knew who the perpetrator was.

TAPPER: What about the evidence suggesting that these people had been held in the house for some time? What would that suggest?

HOUCK: Well, that's definitely a possibility. Are they waiting for money to be delivered or something like that? I mean, we know this was a wealthy family. Was somebody going to go out and make an ATM withdrawal? Was somebody looking for money inside the house?

We don't know. But, for me and my money, looking at this whole case and everything like that, I would be taking a close look at the people that worked inside the house, because people who work inside the house know the inner workings of the house themselves. All right? They know where money might be stashed. All right?

So, that's something the police are probably taking a very close look at right now. TAPPER: When you see that the house was set on fire, that the Porsche

was set on fire, does that sound like somebody is trying to send a message or somebody trying to cover their tracks?

HOUCK: Usually, they're trying to cover their tracks. What it means is they're trying to destroy the evidence.

But, apparently, upstairs, where -- I believe where the fire was, so there's going to be more evidence downstairs that's not really destroyed. So, the ATF coming here and the crime scene unit, even though a lot of this is -- went on fire and is burnt and charred, all right, we're still going to be able to get a lot of evidence out of that house.

We have got cameras in that house. It will be interesting to see, were those cameras turned off when this happened? Was the perpetrator aware those cameras were there or not? And, second of all, the perpetrator had to find himself a way to get out of that house, so he took the vehicle, all right? What is very -- I read an article earlier basically that that vehicle was parked pretty close near where the father's business was. So, that's very interesting.

TAPPER: Why is that interesting? Because it suggests maybe there was a connection to the business?

(CROSSTALK)

HOUCK: There's somehow a connection. There's some kind of a connection.

Now, of course, it could be coincidental, but, as a detective, I don't believe in coincidences.

TAPPER: In your experience, in the hundreds of murders that you have had under your belt, these kinds of cases, is it somebody that knows the family, that's intimately involved and something goes wrong, or is some outside force? This was a successful international businessman.

HOUCK: Right.

TAPPER: Somebody from some other country maybe?

HOUCK: Those are both good possibilities. But I would tend to think that the killer and the family knew each other, and that's why they're all dead.

TAPPER: All right, it's a horrific story and a mystery. Harry Houck, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

In our money lead today: the largest auto recall in American history -- Takata now admitting nearly 34 million cars have potentially deadly air bags on them. Is your car on the list? Stay with us.

Plus, in just over two hours, David Letterman -- 24 hours, rather, David Letterman will say goodbye to late-night television. But before he goes, I sat down with some of the comedians he inspired, Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brien sharing their thoughts on Letterman coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The Money Lead now, breaking news, it is the largest auto recall in American history and there is a chance that the car you're driving right now could be defective.

Air bag manufacturer, Takata admitting more of these devices designed to save lives in some cases could hurt and potentially even kill people.

Let's get right to CNN's Tom Foreman. There are so many cars caught up in the recall, almost 34 million. Dozens of different models are affected here, most notably, a huge number of Hondas, right?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the simple truth is there are a lot of people on the road at this hour, Jake, who are driving cars that are going to be involved in this recall whether they know it or not. It's almost unprecedented. Almost a dozen car companies already, probably more than a dozen by the time they are done, and a truly lethal defect.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): Exploding air bags that can fire bits of metal at passengers with so much force, police say some victims look as if they've been shot or stabbed. That is what U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx took aim at.

SECRETARY ANTHONY FOXX, U.S. TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT: The air bag deflators we suspected did not work correctly. And we believe that they have been responsible for at least five deaths in the United States.

FOREMAN: Serious injuries, too. Cory Verdict was in an accident in Florida. His lawyer says the air bag should have protected him.

RICH NEWSOME, CLIENT BLINDED BY EXPLODING AIRBAG: But instead the air bag exploded and sent a 3.5 inch piece of steel in his face taking out one of his eyes. Now he is horribly disfigured unfortunately.

FOREMAN: The airbag manufacturer is the Japanese company, Takata, one of the biggest in the world. For months Takata has tried to limit the recall, saying the accidents occur only in areas with very high humidity. The government unsatisfied with such claims, pounded Takata with more than a million dollars in fines.

FOXX: Up until now Takata has refused to acknowledge that their air bags are defective. That changes today.

FOREMAN: The most serious accidents so far have involved Hondas but the recall also involved Fords, Chryslers, Mazdas, BMWs, in all 11 manufacturers and parts suppliers so far and the recall process could be a long one.

MARK ROSEKIND, NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: The big question is how long is this going to take. Nobody knows that yet. There is no question, it could be some years.

FOREMAN: The manufacturer issued a statement saying it remains committed to consumer safety, but like the government, it does not yet know why the air bags are exploding. Although Takata has devoted tremendous resources to these efforts with some of the leading researchers in this field worldwide, it is clear that this is a complex issue which takes time to fully evaluate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[16:50:06] FOREMAN: Now to down to the brass tax. If you don't know if your car is on the recall list, officials urge you to go to the web site safercar.gov and find out. And if you find out it is there or if you already know, they say you should immediately contact your local dealership and arrange for the necessary repairs -- Jake.

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thank you so much, again that web site is safercar.gov.

Some of them are old enough to have seen "Oceans 11" in the theaters, the one that starred Frank Sinatra. British authorities now say they've arrested nine people in connection with a huge London jewel heist that happened over Easter weekend.

The suspects were only identified as white males, some of them in their 70s. And some of the details do read like a plan out of Danny Ocean's playbook. The thieves drilled this giant hole to get into the vault in London.

And this is surveillance video of the heist obtained by "The Daily Mirror." It's believed that the criminals got away with $300 million, $300 million worth of cash, gold, diamonds and other valuables. And police say much of the loot was still lying around when they moved in to make these arrests.

Coming up, they might be his two biggest fans, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel open up to me about David Letterman, the night before his final show. How he inspired them next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:46]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, TV HOST: How about this weather here in New York City. Are you enjoying yourselves? Unusual weather for New York City. Today it was 68 and foggy. No, wait a minute. That's me. I'm sorry. That's me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Welcome back to The Lead. The Pop Culture Lead, you know, it wasn't always the old guy in the late night wars. David Letterman was once a young pioneer. He was YouTube before the web. He was one of the first guys to make dorky cool on TV and the guy whom kids snuck out of their bedrooms late at night to watch to see what crazy thing he would do next. And it's that guy who made these guys current late night princes who they are today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): No matter what the other celebrities say --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are connected.

TAPPER: Or do

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not going anywhere, David Letterman.

TAPPER: To express their love for David Letterman this month, few if any can compare to his truest fans, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel.

(on camera): You're Letterman's number one super fan.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": Not only am I Letterman's number one famous fan, I can't imagine that anyone was more obsessed with Dave than I was.

TAPPER: There's a picture I've seen from your 18th birthday.

KIMMEL: Late night with David Letterman. My mom made the cake. She had a Letterman jacket made for me. It's the most formative thing in my young life. It really was.

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": All I wanted to do, my dream job was to work for David Letterman. Carson was the show and then he came along and he created the anti-show and it was a revelation.

TAPPER (voice-over): O'Brien failed to get hired on Letterman's writing staff in 1986

O'BRIEN: I was certain that I was screwed. My career was screwed.

TAPPER: But in 1993, after Dave left for CBS, the then 30-year-old comedy writer was tapped to take over for his hero on NBC's "Late Night."

O'BRIEN: What it felt like is you're at Fenway Park and it's 1961 and they say, ladies and gentlemen, Ted Williams is now at his final at bat. Ladies and gentlemen, replacing Ted Williams now, 19 years old, Chip Whitly. This skinny kid comes running out on the field. Hi, everybody. Chip Whitly, it's going to be fine. I got this. No, I'm fine really. I'm fine. I'm fine.

KIMMEL: I was never that ambitious. In fact if anyone in my life had said, you know, maybe you could be a writer on the Letterman show, that's where I would have -- I probably would have focused on that.

TAPPER (on camera): In 2003 you got your own show on ABC and then all of the sudden you were competing against your hero in a way.

KIMMEL: Yes.

TAPPER: That must have been kind of weird.

KIMMEL: I never felt like I was competing against Dave. I never felt I was worthy enough to be a threat. I think he agreed.

TAPPER (voice-over): It was a thrill for Kimmel to host Letterman as a guest. But an early appearance by Letterman on Conan's show was especially valuable.

O'BRIEN: We had been on the air a couple of months and Dave came on as a guest. And that was a huge deal.

TAPPER (on camera): I felt like his doing that, it wasn't just showing up on a talk show, it was like, everybody get behind the guy. I like this guy.

O'BRIEN: I would like to think that's the case.

TAPPER (voice-over): It was a favor Johnny Carson had done for Letterman as the trail blazing host began what would be a 33-year career.

KIMMEL: Dave would be the last person to say he was better than Johnny, but Dave was better than Johnny. But Johnny wasn't different and Dave started something.

LETTERMAN: Thank you so much. You don't know how proud I feel now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: And before David Letterman's final two episodes, please tune in for my CNN special report, "David Letterman Says Good Night" that's tonight at 9:00 Eastern here on CNN. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."