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Florida Fugitives; Autistic Boy Goes Missing

Aired October 18, 2013 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hour two here on a Friday. Great to be with you. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Question, and I'm hoping not a lot of you will have the answer, how hard is it to escape from prison? Well, sometimes at least, not very difficult at all, because Florida police and sheriff's deputies, right now, they're hunting these two convicted murders as I speak after they were accidentally released from this maximum security prison. You're looking at them. You're looking at Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker. These are the guys on the run.

How they managed to escape will shock you, because it wasn't complicated. This was no "Shawshank" kind of deal. This was simple. Forging prison release documents. And a son who saw his father killed by one of these men reacts to the news of this accidental release.


ROSCOE PUGH III, SON OF VICTIM: Our lives would be totally different. I said that since I was 9 years old, since I was 9 years old, I said my life would have been different if I wouldn't have saw it. I saw it.

CRYSTAL PUGH, WIFE OF VICTIM: It seemed like my whole world came down on me. I thought I would never have to see them ever again in life because they had life sentence plus 100 years, and now to have to know that he's free on the streets, it's frightening. It's terrifying.


BALDWIN: Joining me now, CNN's John Zarrella and Lou Palumbo, director of Elite Intelligence Protection and a former cop in New York. So

guys,, welcome both to you, and, John, let me just begin with you here. Were these two incidents coordinated because this was just a week apart? John Zarrella, can you hear me?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Oh, yes. Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were going to you other guest.


BALDWIN: No, I'm starting with you.

ZARRELLA: Yes, it does look like they were certainly coordinated, although we don't have any absolute evidence that they were.

But at this point, it certainly does. You know, Brooke, the height of arrogance, just within days after their releases, both of these men showed up at the Orange County jail here in Orlando and they filled out what are called voluntary compliance forms, and they allowed themselves to be fingerprinted.


ZARRELLA: So, bottom line, after they get out of jail on these fraudulent documents, they do what is required by law and they show up here at the jail, not far from here, and fill out these compliance forms, get fingerprinted, and walk away again.

BALDWIN: That's brazen.

Lou Palumbo, let me just ask you, how do fugitives -- I mean, these are convicted murders, so their faces are splashed all over local and national news. How do they exist day to day in the public?

LOU PALUMBO, FORMER NEW YORK POLICE OFFICER: Well, that's the really the $64 question. What you hope hasn't happened here is the fact they may for example engaged in some sort of a hostage situation at a residence.

You would think, logically, they would want to leave the area. But as you just mentioned, their faces have been so widely distributed through the media, that unto itself has been proven to be problematic. Maybe one of the tools they have considered is to reach back into the community from which they came and seek some assistance.

But the bottom line is they have to figure out how they're going to assimilate, and that's their problem. If I can just speak to his comment about their arrogance...


PALUMBO: ... one of the reasons they went in and complied with the fingerprinting was so that they didn't raise anybody up to come looking for them.

In other words, if they came in willingly and were fingerprinted and looked like they were just complying with the process of release, no one would immediately start to look for them until they suddenly realized with this clerical error they were inappropriately let go.

BALDWIN: We know that that is all under review, the processes, et cetera.

But back, Lou, to your point, and there are reports at least one of these two men is headed back to their home of Orlando, which is particularly frightening for their victims' family members as well. But you mentioned that that may be a good thing because people may be able to help them, but at the same time, isn't that a bad thing because people know them and will turn them in? PALUMBO: Yes. What will happen in our community is that we will go to their former associates, their families, anyone that may have had a tie to them in the past. So if they're thinking returning back to their initial roots is going to help them, it isn't.

The smartest thing they could do is try to take themselves off the radar screen by going to a less populated, less influenced part of our country by the media, in other words, where they're not spread all over the news networks and the newspapers.

BALDWIN: John Zarrella, final question to you just quickly, do we know at all if they have hooked back up while they're on the lam?

ZARRELLA: No, we don't. We absolutely don't.

We just know that the -- one of the two was here as late as a week ago. It was only October 11, last Friday, when he showed up at the jail to go ahead and fill out that paperwork. And the authorities here told us the exact same thing, said these guys are now following the let's of the law so that there were no red flags raised, but, of course, now, everybody is out looking for them. We know they kind of lived around the same area of Orlando.

We don't even know if they knew each other, although they did, of course -- and the murders that were committed were within a few miles of each other, but they were in the same correctional facility and it's certainly likely if they didn't know each other beforehand, they did after they were incarcerated.


BALDWIN: John Zawahri, Lou Palumbo, gentlemen, thank you both.

And the end of the government shutdown left Obamacare intact, but there remains a negative spotlight clogging the health care law and really dogging it. It's still plagued with technical glitches on the enrollment Web site. Many, many people are upset about not being able to easily sign up for health insurance, and now some Republicans want the health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, to answer for it with her job.

We talked about this here. They're calling for Secretary Sebelius to resign. They have even gone as far as launching this online petition. The RNC told CNN anchor Carol Costello she should take the hit for what it is calling rollout malpractice.


SEAN SPICER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I think if you're going to spend three years and hundreds of millions of dollars having a rollout occur like this and go so poorly, then something needs to happen.

What the bigger problem is where you come in and say so what, if you can't handle something like this that's a top priority and bungle it so poorly, can you do the other things that probably are more routine? And this really calls into question the accountability and leadership that is going on over at HHS in terms of not only our taxpayer dollars but the delivery of key services.


BALDWIN: The White House says Sebelius has its full support, but can the problems be fixed?

Laurie Segall is our tech pro with CNN Money.

Laurie Segall, what is going on here?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, we have to look at the traffic, Brooke. Right?

Within 24 hours, 4.6 million people trying to get on this Web site. A lot of questions are, were they even prepared for this kind of traffic? Were there problems on the back end? Look, I know a lot of folks in Silicon Valley, and I sat down and spoke to the founder of WordPress. I should say that WordPress, they power one in every five sites on the Internet, so I talked to Matt Mullenweg, and he's the founder, and I said, what went wrong here? Listen to what he said.


MATT MULLENWEG, FOUNDER, WORDPRESS: In software, they say you can have IT fast, cheap or good, pick two out of three. And it sounds like they went for the fast and cheaper.

Software is difficult to do. And you can't manage it like construction. And typically, especially in Silicon Valley, we use the very latest technologies. Often, government haven't adopted many of those. If they haven't property load-tested the Web site beforehand, it's very possible that this can be overwhelmed. They find bottlenecks when it launches.


SEGALL: And, Brooke, I should mention that WordPress has funded $30 million over eight years. They now power one in every five sites on the Web, including a lot of CNN blogs. And Obamacare's Web sites over three years funded hundreds of millions of dollar. When you look at the numbers, it's pretty eye-opening.

BALDWIN: Laurie Segall, thank you very much. Here's hoping it gets smoother for everyone.

Coming up, an autistic boy missing after running off from school. Now police are trying a unique method to find this 14-year-old. Part of that includes a recording of his own mother's voice. Coming up next, we will explain why police are using that specific phrase to try and lure this young boy home to safety.

Plus, one of the most dangerous asteroids on record zips close by Earth, and now we're learning it will be headed towards us in about two decades from now. Are we in its path? What happens if it hits Earth? We will talk probability with an expert coming up.


BALDWIN: Want to come out with some live pictures here. This is obviously shot from a helicopter hovering in West Los Angeles. You're looking at an apartment building or a condo complex in West L.A. If you know the area, this is the Barrington Plaza apartment complex. And clearly a heck out of a lot of black smoke coming out of the 11th floor, and if you look really, really closely on the right-side of your screen, there have been firefighters who have been coming and going, coming and going from one of those balconies trying to hone in on this particular unit on the 11th floor.

Lots of smoke and clearly damage to multiple surrounding units as well, but this is what we're watching as the fire continues to burn and the effort continues here in West Los Angeles. We have got folks making phone calls. We will keep you posted on what's happening right there in L.A.

But I want to move along to New York because a massive search is under way for a missing New York City teenager who is mute and has autism. So an entire community is desperate to find 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo. Investigators say he disappeared two weeks ago after running out of his special needs school, through an unmonitored door.

So to help with the search, authorities are airing audio messages through these neighborhoods, even on subways because he loves trains. And they're playing the voice of Avonte's mother, hoping he will hear her and respond to the sound.


VANESSA FONTAINE, MOTHER: Avonte, it's mom. Come to the flashing lights, Avonte.


BALDWIN: Avonte's mother said the idea of the messages came because her son is nonverbal. She did make this public plea last night to CNN's Piers Morgan.


FONTAINE: My message to my son is that I love him. And we're going to find him. You will come home to your family. And for anyone who has him, please be kind, and to let him go. Bring him, you know, to somewhere. I don't care if it's a fast food restaurant, a fire department, police station. Just, you know, drop him there.


BALDWIN: Finding missing children is a very tough task. It's even more difficult when this child has special needs.

Joining us live is Lisa Goring. She is the vice president of family services with Autism Speaks. So, Lisa, welcome to you.


BALDWIN: It's difficult enough just trying to track down a 14-year- old. But can you just walk me through the differences, the additional layers necessary when you have a child mute and autistic?

GORING: So if you think about autism, the challenges include communication both verbal and nonverbal, social interactions, and in some cases, there may be some repetitive behaviors that if people don't understand them may seem a bit odd.

You couple that with the fact that for some in the autism community, they don't really understand danger. You can imagine, for any parent, this is their worst nightmare, but especially when you combine the other factors for a person with autism and their family, it's even more of an issue.

BALDWIN: With those factors, what is an investigator on the ground to do?

GORING: If they were to see Avonte, we would suggest that they keep Avonte in their sight and that they call 911 as soon as possible. I wouldn't approach. And I certainly wouldn't try to touch him, but really keep him in your sight and call the authorities right away.

BALDWIN: I also read, Lisa, that, you know, oftentimes kids like Avonte are engaging in high-risk behavior. Can you explain what that means?

GORING: So, it's not necessarily -- again, it goes back to some of the autism may not understand danger. For some, they're attracted to water. We know that there's a portion of those that wander are attracted to water, and so they may not understand the dangers of that.

They may not understand dangers in terms of crossing the street and what that may mean. So it really is very, very challenging and so concerning to certainly the autism community, but the community as large.

BALDWIN: I know this mother wants her little boy back, and we hope she gets him safe and sound. Lisa Goring with Autism Speaks, Lisa, thank you so much.

Want to take you back to the live pictures here as we continue to watch this firefight under way. This is West Los Angeles. And you are looking all the way up in this massive apartment condo complex, some 11 stories up. You see the thick black smoke. It is lunchtime, and these firefighters are busy, busy trying to contain this fire that according to fire it is within one unit, again, on the 11th floor.

If you know the area, this is the Barrington Plaza apartment and condo complex, and, you know, imagine you have these firefighters inside, and they're trying to contain it to this one particular apartment, but you see to smoke just even on the facade of the building. Clearly, there will be damage on the facade, to the apartments above where you see all the thick black smoke, but certainly inside as well with water damage, but hopefully those who are inside and around it are A-OK.

Way too early to tell exactly how this thing started, so coming up next, we will talk live to someone on the scene in West Los Angeles who can walk us through exactly what they're seeing right here, breaking news from L.A. Be right back.


BALDWIN: All right, back to these pictures of this big, black smoke emanated from the apartment complex on the west side of Los Angeles.

As we continue to watch this, I have had folks in the control room watching this through the commercial break and they're saying at least some of the bright orange flames, they're seeing fewer of them. Hopefully, that's a good sign as L.A. Fire is attacking this.

Here are two different views of basically the same thing. One of our affiliates in Los Angeles is reporting, if you know this neck of the woods, this in the 11,700 block of Wilshire. Since this is obviously ongoing, this firefight is ongoing, any information as far as if anyone was inside the apartment, how many people, possible injuries, we just don't know yet. We're working this fire. This is the Barrington Apartment fire, Barrington Apartment condo complex in West L.A.

As soon as we get more information, and someone -- we're working hard to get someone on the phone, we will pass it along to you right here on CNN.

A dangerous asteroid zipped by our planet last month. And we didn't even know about it. The asteroid was discovered during the government shutdown while, as you know, NASA was closed. At its closest point, the asteroid was about four million miles from Earth. If the asteroid had hit our planet, big old if here, the impact would have been like a couple thousand atomic bombs.

NASA says the odds of that happening are extremely teeny-tiny, and those odds are expected to grow even slimmer or disappear altogether once more is known about this asteroid.

So, Sara Seager, professor of planetary science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sara, welcome to you.

Listen, I'm not packing my doomsday asteroid bag anytime soon as I'm reading about the odds, something like one in 63,000. What more can you tell me about this?

SARA SEAGER, MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: Well, first, I just want to say it's great to be here this afternoon to tell you about the asteroid.

And I hopefully can convince you not to really worry at all. What typically happens when an asteroid is found is, we don't know a lot about it, especially its orbit. We don't know what its orbit will be like or how close it will come back to Earth. In almost every single case that I have heard of, as the orbit gets better, as time goes by and we can take more measurements of the asteroid, we find that the probability it will hit Earth drops. It almost always is the case.

BALDWIN: Even though so many of us aren't worried, we know that an asteroid, what, some six miles wide once upon a time some 65 million years ago took out dinosaurs and most of life, so I know that in reading, NASA is saying that, yes, another asteroid of that ilk will come again. How far away are we from that?


SEAGER: I share -- I mean, I share your excitement in the doomsday scenario, but just to be realistic here, that asteroid that hit we think that killed the dinosaurs, we think it was about 10 kilometers large. This one that came by recent that we're talking about today was about 400 meters, so like 20 times smaller than that one.

We like to think now in planetary science -- we're not 100 percent sure -- but that any big thing that would as destructive as the one that hit here 65 million years ago, that we could see something big before it finds us. The really big ones, we're not as worried about.




SEAGER: But if you do want me to -- if you want me to give you -- if you would like me to give you something to worry about...


BALDWIN: No, I don't want to worry. I don't want to worry.


BALDWIN: Let me say this. A lot of people are fascinated by asteroids. They have seen "Armageddon." Is there a plan in place? Is NASA prepared for the if and when?

SEAGER: Well, let me -- before I say that, I just want to get back to danger.

Remember, last February, there was a relatively small asteroid. It was about 20 meters in diameter. It came to Earth's atmosphere. It created a blast, a shockwave over Russia, and it blew out glass.


BALDWIN: I remember that.


SEAGER: ... injuring about 1,000 people, yes.

So, I think today people are a little more worried than they used to be. As far as movies like "Armageddon" and others go, where humans manage to get to an asteroid and they put a nuclear detonation or something to change the orbit, people are thinking about that right now. Although there isn't any real plan to do so, I can tell you one thing, that if we have a prediction that an asteroid will be hitting Earth 20 years from now that could cause global destruction, we will be able to get our act together and figure out how to do that in 20 years.

So, I have full confidence in my colleagues and peers and the engineers at NASA to be able to move an asteroid if they're required to.

BALDWIN: OK, full destruction, with a straight face, you say this in 20 years, but you're confident in NASA, so I will be as well.

Sara Seager from MIT, thank you so much for that.


SEAGER: You're welcome.


Students scrambling, colleges confused. A Web site supposed to make it easier for high school seniors applying to colleges has hit a major glitch. Students are not sure if their applications have gone through, and colleges have been forced to push back those deadlines.

Plus, this. Listen, they're laughing, but these Boy Scout leaders say they were trying to move these boulders to protect kids, but they're facing major charges for doing this. We're "On the Case."


BALDWIN: Let's go back to Los Angeles, back to these pictures here.

Much, much better scene. I'm not really seeing much smoke at all, though you can see the crusted sort of aftermath. Here is the update we have now from L.A. Fire, is that one person has been transferred to the hospital with smoke inhalation. That's the latest we have, as you can see some of the reflector suits, some of the firefighters milling about in this apartment. This is the Barrington Apartment condo complex in West L.A.

And now to this, ah, yes, the days of applying to college. The stresses, I remember it as if it were yesterday. But, right now, as schools across the country wrap up their application processes, many students are panicking, wondering if their applications made it to college at all.

That is because this Web site, very, very popular among lots of student here, it's in meltdown, multiple glitches crippling this supposedly streamlined process. CNN's Alina Machado explains.


ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every time she's tried to logon to Common App this week...

MARIA VOSS, HOLY SPIRIT PREP: And I enter my e-mail, and it says there's no account with this e-mail.

MACHADO: ... Maria Voss says she's gotten an error message keeping her off the site.

(on camera): And when that happened, what did you think?

VOSS: I was kind of in a panic zone, because I -- I wanted to get these deadlines. I had a few essays to finish writing. I had a few recommenders to sign off. And I couldn't go on.