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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS
Oklahoma Wildfires Surging; The Trial of Drew Peterson; Jobs & The Election; Story from South Korea Shows Bullying is a Worldwide Problem
Aired August 4, 2012 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning everyone. I'm Randi Kaye.
It's 9:00 Eastern, 8:00 in Oklahoma where at least six wildfires are burning. People have left their homes and there is a red flag warning. Reinforcements are on their way to those fires in Oklahoma. The worst of those fires is burning in Luther. That's about 20 miles outside Oklahoma City. Flames that started in fields and farms just rolled down main street.
No word on exact damage yet, but last hour I talked with reporter Katy Blakey of affiliate KOCO and I asked her about reports that the Luther fire may have been deliberately set.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATY BLAKEY, KOCO REPORTER: The Oklahoma County is the lead investigator on this fire. They believe that this fire here in Luther may have been a case of arson. Initially they were looking for a man in a pickup truck because someone called in and reported seeing that man throwing wads of paper already lit out to pasture. So they are still working to determine maybe who that man is, what those witnesses exactly saw.
But you know that's so unsettling for so many people here in Oklahoma. We already knew the conditions were bad. The governor issued a statewide burn ban and then you have something like that take place. So much of this could have been preventable and didn't even need to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Structures have already been burned and hundreds more are threatened.
Two medical news now, in a major spike in cases of West Nile virus. Health officials say it is the biggest rise since 2004. So far we've seen 241 cases across the country with four deaths. The CDC says most of the cases have been centered in Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma. The virus is carried by mosquitoes.
From mosquitoes to pigs, there's a new strain of swine flu. At least 16 people have been infected over the past few weeks, most of them in Ohio. But none of those people were hospitalized. All of the cases this year are linked to contact with pigs. Extreme weather now. Tropical storm Ernesto moving west. The storm hit the Windward Islands with heavy rains and 60 mile per hour winds. Right now it's about 300 miles south of Puerto Rico headed for Jamaica. Ernesto is expected to strengthen into a hurricane sometime tomorrow. But the latest tracks do not have it reaching the U.S..
The new July jobs report was a bit of a mixed bag. There were 163,000 jobs added but the unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent. The rise comes from a change to the labor force. Mitt Romney called the news a hammer blow to the American people. While President Obama touted the job gains as evidence that the recovery is working.
He is a former Chicago area police officer who now finds himself on the other side of the law. His name, Drew Peterson. And the death of his third wife along with the disappearance of his fourth has thrust Peterson into the spotlight normally reserved for criminals. For years the cases have been cold but now Peterson's very high profile murder trial is heating up. I took a look back at the events that led Peterson to this point.
KAYE (voice-over): If Drew Peterson did kill his third wife Kathleen Savio back in early 2004, he certainly hasn't cracked under pressure.
LARRY KING, "LARRY KING LIVE": What happened?
DREW PETERSON, MURDER SUSPECT: I don't know. Don't know. I have neighbors go into the house and they found her dead in the bath tub.
KAYE: Eight years have passed since Kathleen Savio was discovered dead in her bath tub. She was naked and the bathtub was dry. At the time Peterson was a sergeant with the Bolingbrook Police Department outside Chicago. Just a couple of days before they were to divorce, Peterson said he went to check on Savio with neighbors but didn't go inside until he heard a neighbor scream.
Peterson insisted he had nothing to do with it and the coroner agreed. He ruled Savio's death an accidental drowning. Case closed. That is until the disappearance of yet another wife, three years later. Stacy Peterson, his fourth wife, gone in a flash.
PETERSON: She told me she found somebody else and she was leaving.
KAYE: Nobody has heard a word from Stacey Peterson since October 2007, almost five years ago. But we've heard plenty from Drew Peterson. It was bizarre encounters like these with reporters that are most memorable.
PETERSON: Please go home. Please leave me alone.
I'm going to camp myself in front of your house and see if you like it.
KAYE: The couple's home was searched. Local ponds dredged and even as investigators began to close in on Drew Peterson. CAPT. CARL DOBRICH, ILLINOIS STATE POLICE: Right now, Drew Peterson has gone from a person of interest to being a suspect.
KAYE: His strange antics continued.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you get when you cross the media with a pig?
KAYE: Drew Peterson has never been charged in Stacy's disappearance but he is still a suspect. With wife number four missing, Illinois state police investigators got curious and decided to take a second look at the death of wife number tree.
On November 13, 2007, they exhumed Kathleen Savio's body for another autopsy. She had been buried 3 1/2 years. The day before Drew Peterson resigned from the Bolingbrook Police Department after three decades of service. When asked about Savio's body being exhumed, he said this on NBC.
PETERSON: It's a shame that her rest in peace has to be disturbed for something like this when they did it once. Now they're doing it again.
KAYE: A few months after that interview, February 2008, a stunning reversal in Savio's cause of death. Two coroners found it was no accidental drowning but homicide. Two new autopsies showed Savio had a one-inch laceration on the back of her head from blunt force trauma plus scraps and bruising. Savio's sister said she always live in fear.
SUSAN DOMAN, KATHLEEN SAVIO'S SISTER: We never felt it was an accident and she always told us that whether it was a premonition or not, she always says that it would be an accident. And to take care of her children. He was going to kill her.
KAYE (on camera): Even the possibility of murder charges didn't keep Peterson quiet. He seemed to relish his celebrity. In January 2008, during an interview with a Chicago radio station, Peterson suggested the station start a new contest called Win a Date with Drew. It never panned out.
(voice-over): About six months later, a major blow in the pages of "The Chicago Sun Times." Two friends who had agreed to wear a wire for the state and record conversations with Drew Peterson, told the paper, Peterson said this about Savio "I should have had that blank cremated it would cost me less and I wouldn't be going through this trouble." He also alleged he would be acquitted of Savio's death long before his fourth wife's remains would be found.
In may of 2009, Peterson was arrested. And charged with first degree murder in the death of his third wife. He pleaded not guilty. From jail, he kept on talking, calling that same Chicago radio station with another outlandish suggestion.
PETERSON: I know we can't do the "Date with Drew" anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
PETERSON: But I think what we should do is win a conjugal visit with Drew. Let's do that.
KAYE: Peterson's lawyer called this all a case of bad luck.
JOEL BRODSKY, DREW PETERSON'S ATTORNEY: We have a guy whose one wife who died of an accident and another who ran off. Which may make him unlucky but nothing mischievous about either of those two things.
KAYE: Now 58, Peterson has been in jail several years awaiting trial for the murder of wife number three and as recently as last month he was still chatting up reporters telling the "Chicago Sun Times" he is "sick of being called sinister."
KAYE: And we'll continue our discussion of Peterson and the two cold cases at the center of this hot trials. Still to come, retired New York State Police officer and security expert Lou Palumbo will join me with his perspective.
KAYE: Welcome back. Returning now to the Drew Peterson case, which will go forward in an Illinois court after a judge refused to declare a mistrial earlier this week. Joining me now is Lou Palumbo, director of the Elite Group Private Security firm. He's also a retired police officer from Nassau County, New York.
Lou, good morning. The Drew Peterson trial seems to combine -- the way I see it, two cold cases into one. Two dead wives, one body and one still missing. What challenges do you think the prosecution faces here, if any, in making their case?
LOU PALUMBO, DIRECTOR, ELITE GROUP: Well, as we kind of stated simply before, Randy, there's a lot of circumstantial evidence in this case. Nothing directly tying him to the case as far as physical evidence, number one.
Number two, they have reclassified the demise of the wife in the bath tub to be one which was a homicide predicated on exhuming her body three years later and determining that the laceration on the back of her head was the result of a blunt trauma.
Well, if anybody has ever been in a bath tub, if you would have passed out and hit the faucet, for example, you could sustain a blunt trauma injury. I think the case is highly problematic. Unfortunately it's not what we know, often times, but it's what we can prove.
PALUMBO: And I think they've got an uphill battle with this case.
KAYE: Well, wife number three, Kathleen Savio, who did die in that bath tub, first it was ruled an accidental drowning then a homicide. But there were signs of a struggle. Her hair was covered in blood, there were some scratches and lacerations and bruising. How would that determine who killed her because they've been certainly trying to find that out for years now?
PALUMBO: Well, again, we're now going back three years after this young lady has been buried. And initially if she had scratches, for example, what they could have done was checked the defendant's nails to see if he had any DNA there. Blood is the same thing. You know, but the problem with this is that when you're married to the person, it's not a shock to find your DNA on your spouse. You know, I'm not quite sure that the fact that she had blood in her hair constitutes a homicide. I think it constitutes the fact there was an injury, which might be consistent with why she drowned in a bath tub.
I think the case is really problematic and the fact that they've had to go back three years later or two years later and exhume her body and try to reconstruct what they think might have happened with him is going to cause a huge problem.
KAYE: Let's talk about Drew Peterson's friends because they were wired up for the state and they recorded some pretty incriminating comments by Drew Peterson, basically saying that he wished he had Kathleen Savio cremated. He wouldn't have all these problems. How important with those recordings be to the case?
PALUMBO: I think they're important because they speak to his state of mind and a bit of callousness. But I'm certain that the defense is going to explain it from the perspective that if she hadn't been around he wouldn't have to continue to live with this thing. I don't think it's necessarily an admission of guilt. It's just a short sighted way or perspective on her demise which kind of lends itself to him being a rater callous individual.
KAYE: Lou Palumbo, appreciate your insight. Thank you very much as we continue to follow this case, we'll watch it along with you.
PALUMBO: Thank you.
KAYE: Bullied at school, tied up and beaten. A teenager takes his own life. Leaving his mother devastated. She is speaking out saying schools need to do more to stop bullying.
KAYE: Every week at this time we take a look at bullying. An epidemic among youth around the world. Our mission is to drive home the message that it needs to stop. I've covered more of these stories than I care to remember and one day I hope it's a topic no journalist has to cover. We've mainly focused on the problem here at home but other countries like South Korea are battling against bullies too.
Here's CNN's Paula Hancocks with one mother's devastating story.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lim Jee-Young reads the suicide note of her 13-year-old son. (INAUDIBLE) jumped out of the seventh floor window of the family home seven months ago because he was being bullied in school. Her son's final words described how he was robbed and beaten by boys in his class. Electrical wire was tied around his neck and he was burned with lighters.
Lim doesn't want to show here face on camera. She's only told close friends and family have a son died. She had no idea he is being bullied.
She relives the day police called her to come home. When she arrived she saw a body outside her apartment block covered in a white cloth.
I pulled back the cloth and saw my son, she says. I put my arms around him and felt that he was still warm. I said he's still alive and I called for a doctor and they told me he's already dead. When I looked up I saw the open window. His bedroom has not been touched since that day.
The parents and older brother all had trouble sleeping. As a teacher herself Lim says schools are not doing up enough to protect students.
The school wants to cover it up, she says. Just five months after my son killed himself, a girl in the same grade committed suicide because of bullying but nothing was done. It happened again.
(on camera): The school in question declined to comment but it's certainly not the only one with problems. In 2010 more than 350 teenagers between the ages of 10 and 19 committed suicide. That's almost one every day. The main reason for youth suicide in South Korea is concerns over school grades. But school violence is also a significant factor.
(voice-over): The problem has been recognized by the government counseling centers will be set up in 40 percent of schools by the end of this year. So-called we classes. Standing for we, education, emotion.
This counselor tells me --
KIM UL-KHO, SCHOOL COUNSELOR (through translator): Before a student feels suicidal, he or she has gone through a lot of pain. If counselors intervene early enough, the child can be saved.
HANCOCKS: (INAUDIBLE) is 17 years old and came to ask advice for his friend who is being bullied.
HYUN-JUN, SOUTH KOREAN STUDENT (through translator): He says bullying victims have a hard time because they feel there's no one they can ask for help so a place like this is really important.
HANCOCKS: Schools are also trying to put more focus on team sports rather than just celebrating individual success. Counselors say intense competition in Korean schools can lead to bullying. Government figures suggest school violence, although still high, has started to decrease. Too late for this 13-year-old and another South Korean family destroyed by bullying and suicide.
Paula Hancocks, CNN, South Korea.
(END VIDEOTAPE) KAYE: And if you would like to let me know what you think of our stories, about bullying, you can tweet me now or any time, be sure to use the hash tag bullying stops here and you can find me at randikayecnn. I'd love to hear from you.
Wild fires burning in Oklahoma forcing people from their homes and they may not have been an accident.
KAYE: Checking top stories for you, we start with multiple wildfires burning across Oklahoma. Dozens of homes have already been burned. More than 100 are in danger. It's believed strong winds and low humidity are fueling the flames. Officials are searching for a possible arson suspect.
Disgusting and atrocious. Just some of the words officials are using to describe a suspected puppy mill in North Carolina. Animal rescue crews were shocked to find more than 100 dogs living in a trailer without electricity.
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KIM ALBOUM, DIRECTOR, NORTH CAROLINA HUMANE SOCIETY: This is the worst puppy mill that I have seen in North Carolina. Those animals inside that house are suffering immensely. It is filthy, disgusting. There is garbage everywhere. There are new born babies. It is filthy. Some rooms have dogs with cages stacked on top of each other. In other rooms they're free among garbage. There's a room full of birds. It is devastating.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's uncalled for. That's just uncalled for. If you can't take of the dogs properly, you don't need to have them.
ALBOUM: The only thing that can drive something that devastating would be greed. There are so many puppies in there and pregnant mothers. There can be nothing more than greed. This is atrocious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: The dogs' owners were arrested and are expected to face charges. Rescuers say it would be at least a week before any of the animals can be put up for adoption.
In Oakland, protestors caused some damage downtown. A brick was thrown through the window of an Obama campaign office. Nobody was hurt. More than 100 Occupy Oakland protestors were marching down the street at the time. Reports say several car windows were also broken.
It is super Saturday in London and for one man nicknamed the blade runner, the Olympic games are as much as defying the odds as they are about winning gold. His name is Oscar Pistorius and today the double amputee from South Africa became the first athlete in history to compete in both the Paralympics and Olympics. The (INAUDIBLE) placed second in his 400 meter qualifying heat will head into the semifinals tomorrow. And as kids head back to school, it is going to be a great weekend to hit those back to school sales. That's because many states are helping out with those tax free holidays. There are 17 states that have dates set, most of them are actually this weekend. It's a big help of course for parents or grandparents looking to get some back-to-school items for the kids.
Back to school is about more than just new clothes and school supplies, we're focusing on state of our schools this morning. Next hour, the controversial former head of the D.C. school system, Michele Rhee. She's got some new ideas of fixing schools and empowering students. She'll be here to talk with us.
I will also be back with more headlines at the top of the hour. But first, "YOUR BOTTOM LINE" starts right now.