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Adoptive Parents Fight for Daughter; Wingsuit Fliers Soar over New York City

Aired May 20, 2014 - 08:30   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Families have been fighting for that data for months now but the satellite company, Inmarsat, has declined to make it public until now.

CNN has learned the Pentagon has an evacuation plan in place if it needs to get Americans out of Libya. That as violence sweeps across the nation. Officials warn Libya could be close to a civil war.

China is calling allegations of cyber espionage absurd and demanding an indictment against five of its military officers be withdrawn. This hours after the U.S. officially charged them with stealing trade secrets.

And at number five, the NBA has now formally charged Donald Sterling with damaging the league and its teams with racist comments. The owners are set to vote on June 3rd. They will decide whether to strip Sterling's ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.

We do update those five things to know. So be sure to go to for the very latest and freshest.



Now to a bitter custody battle pitting a birth father against the only family his daughter has ever known. The nine-year-old girl removed from her adoptive parents' home after seven years. That's the situation. They say she is pleading to come back, but a judge says she's staying put for now. David and Kim Hodgin are standing by, but first here's a look at their story.


CUOMO (voice-over): David and Kim Hodgin have been trapped in a dire adoption battle since 2009, desperately fighting to win back custody of their nine-year-old daughter Sonya, whom they've raised since she was just one years old. Sonya was ordered by a juvenile court judge to leave the only home she's ever known, a 40-acre farm in Tennessee, and sent to live here in Omaha, Nebraska, with her birth father, John McCaul, a convicted criminal.

In 2006, McCaul pleaded guilty to transporting firearms and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Because Tennessee law does not allow anyone incarcerated for more than 10 years to have rights to a child under eight years old, his parental rights were terminated. But before Sonya's adoption was finalized, McCaul's sentence was reduced to seven and a half years, allowing him to reverse the adoption.


CUOMO: Sonya's uncle recalls that day back in January when the child was taken from her adoptive parents.

MCELHANEY: And they ripped her out of their arms, with them down on their knees begging them to not do this.

CUOMO: The next day, the Hodgin family received his heartbreaking phone call.


SONYA HODGIN: Dirt everywhere. I think there's even mold.

K. HODGIN: There's even mold.

CUOMO: Words of support fill the Facebook page dedicated to bringing Sonya home.


CUOMO: David and Kim Hodgin join us now.

I know this is a very difficult time for both of you. What has made it so difficult emotionally for you as this process is carrying out, Kim?

K. HODGIN: It's very, very, very hard on our family. Life is just - it's - it's terrible. I guess I can't - I can't even focus. I can't imagine what, you know, his -- is going through. Her mental state. I just can't.

CUOMO: David -- David, tell me about Sonya. So far we only know about the case. We don't know much about her. Who is she?

DAVID HODGIN, FIGHTING TO WIN BACK 9-YEAR-OLD ADOPTED DAUGHTER: Sonya is an extremely smart little girl, very outgoing, very energetic, very athletic. He's just a very loving little girl. She's -- plays softball and gymnastics and loves her family and her pets and her brother and she's -- she's a fabulous little girl.

CUOMO: Kim, what do you know about how she's doing?

K. HODGIN: I don't. We haven't been able to talk to Sonya since January the 30th, and that was the phone call that you heard where she was begging to come get her, and the house was not clean and I - I don't know how Sonya's doing. They stopped all communication after that day with our -- with us.

CUOMO: And by "they" you mean the state authorities. I've heard the call, but the audience hasn't. This is the phone call that Kim says she received from Sonya in her new home. Take a listen.


K. HODGIN: Tell me, how bad is that house?

S. HODGIN: Dirt everywhere. I think there's even mold.

K. HODGIN: There's even mold.

S. HODGIN: He doesn't have no clean water.

K. HODGIN: No clean water. No drinking water.

S. HODGIN: It's just it's so dirty. There's dirt all over it. And it's inside it's so nasty. There's cigarettes everywhere.

K. HODGIN: Is he being nice to you?

S. HODGIN: Yeah.


CUOMO: Now, Kim, I know that's difficult for you to hear. What did you tell Sonya about what was going to happen and why?

K. HODGIN: You -- I didn't know what to -- what to tell her. I was -- obviously we was -- we didn't even know think was going to happen like this. I told her to be strong and that mommy and daddy was going to do everything we can do to -- to get her back. It was devastating. How do you tell a nine-year-old that this could -- this could happen when she -- she obviously didn't even -- she didn't know her biological father.

D. HODGIN: She had never met him.

K. HODGIN: Never met him. And that we, in our minds, couldn't fathom that anything like this could ever -- ever happen to a child. There was no transitional plan. There was no -- you know, who in their right mind would send a nine-year-old child with a total stranger just from -- come home from school and, boom, gone. Total stranger.

CUOMO: Well, the way they did it is certainly going to be up for criticism. But, David, how do you deal with the basic idea of the law, which is that blood wins and that a parent, a biological parent, has the right to raise their own child?

D. HODGIN: Well, it's -- I know after going through all this for the last 110 days that Sonya's been gone that what we've been told the laws are, but there's -- there's different interpretations of the laws and what needs to happen is, children have rights. They have rights. And Sonya's constitutional rights have been ignored. And there's been laws broken. In this case, state laws broken. And that will be -- that will come out. But children need to have rights. There's lots of cases, not unlike ours, that are just a tragedy, a travesty for kids. And they need a voice. And children need to have a best interest hearing every -- on any case. CUOMO: Kim, the state will say, listen, the house isn't as nice, the lifestyle's not as nice, but that's how it goes sometimes and people belong with family. That will be their case. What do you say in response, Kim?

K. HODGIN: You know, obviously, we don't think that we're better than any -- anyone, but Sonya shouldn't have been treated that way. You wouldn't treat -- no one would treat an animal that way. Not in this country. And they -- Sonya is not used to that lifestyle. She's just -- she wasn't. So this is devastating for her to be ripped away from the farm, the gymnastics, the softball, the -- everything and just - I don't know what to say. It's -- it's devastating. I just can't believe this has happened.

CUOMO: Well, we know that this has become your life's purpose is righting this situation from your perspective and we're going to follow the case along the way. And, please, stay in touch with us and let us know what happens. Kim, David Hodgin, thank you very much for joining us and telling this story.

D. HODGIN: Thank you for having us on.

K. HODGIN: Thank you. Thank you.

CUOMO: Now, we did reach out to John McCaul. He is the birth father. He wanted to do an interview but his attorney told us this, that the "parental rights" involved "have never been successfully terminated." As well as the Department of Children's Services, we reached out to them as well, and they told us that, quote, "the law is clear, birth parents have a right to raise their children."

Now, certainly, there's going to be litigation on this, Kate. Best interest rules, but what that means under the law can often get very complicated.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely right, Chris.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, we are finally hearing from a Colorado mom who endured an unbelievable ordeal. She was trapped in an overturned car for almost a week and she managed to survive. How? We will hear her story.

And, nope, not a bird, not a plane, just, you know, five people flying over New York City by wing suit, of course, with incredible pictures to show for it. Two of them in their wing suits joining us to tell us what it is like to take a solo flight like that over New York City.


PEREIRA: We have for you a really amazing story of survival. We're hearing this morning from that Colorado mother of four who spent about a week trapped in her car after an accident that cost her her feet. But she says dying was never an option.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KRISTIN HOPKINS, SURVIVED WEEK (ph) TRAPPED IN CAR: I tried to crawl forward out of it and I couldn't get out. And then I tried to go backwards out of it, and I still couldn't get out.


PEREIRA: Speaking out for the first time, Kristin Hopkins describes the horror she endured trapped in this mangled vehicle for almost a week.


HOPKINS: I remember waking up. It was daylight. And I was like, what the heck happened?


PEREIRA: Hopkins says she only has flashes of memories from her ordeal, telling CNN affiliate KUSA in Denver that she doesn't remember what caused her vehicle to careen off road and roll town a steep embankment before landing upside-down on its roof.


HOPKINS: The next thing I remember was being here in the hospital and I was being warmed up.


PEREIRA: Hopkins says immediately after the crash, she only had her four children in mind.


HOPKINS: I remember like the first day or so was, oh, my God, I've got to pick up my kids. And I couldn't find my phone or anything to, you know, text or call or anything, but I was like, oh, my God, I've got to go pick up my kids.


PEREIRA: Another of the few vague messages she can recall, writing help messages on a red and white umbrella.


HOPKINS: The one door, I could open, you know, like this much, and I got the umbrella out and I opened it and it stayed there.


PEREIRA: Hopkins was finally rescued after a passing motorist spotted her car at the bottom of a ravine. She had survived, but not unscathed. Both her feet had to be amputated. But Hopkins says through it all she never lost hope.


HOPKINS: I never had the death thought in my head. It was more or less, all right, well, when will somebody find me?


PEREIRA: Kristin says that keeping a positive attitude and keeping her children as her main focus, that's what's helping her get through those really painful physical therapy sessions. Also want to point out, oftentimes people will say, how can we help? Because, remember, she's a single mother of four. They've set up a Kristin Hopkins recovery page on Facebook. I'll make sure to link to it on mine, because that's going to be a struggle. That's going to be a struggle.

BOLDUAN: You talk about, she was thinking of her kids -


BOLDUAN: And it was that positive attitude that's going to help her get through physical therapy. That is definitely what kept her alive, too.

PEREIRA: It absolutely did.


PEREIRA: Amazing.

BOLDUAN: That is an amazing - what an amazing woman.

PEREIRA: Good story.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, taking flight, seriously. A group of high fliers soared through the skies over the big apple and they're here, a couple of them, to tell us all about this exhilarating, terrifying adventure.

CUOMO: Spread your wings. Be free!


PEREIRA: If you happen to be walking through the southern tip of Manhattan Sunday around 8:00 a.m., you might have seen this -- five people just flying over Manhattan in wing suits, five Red Bull wing suit fliers soaring over the southern tip of the island 120 miles per hour. Quite amazing video -- quite an amazing sight to see.

The daredevils flew two miles in two minutes passing over the World Trade Center and finally landing, which is amazing to me, on a barge in the Hudson River. Two of them have landed in our studio. Jeff Provenzano and Amy Chmelecki, both are wing suit athletes and part of the Red Bull Air Force.

Good to have you here.

BOLDUAN: It's great to watch that over and over again. PEREIRA: Over and over again. How did that feel? Amy, tell us, how did it feel?

AMY CHMELECKI, WINGSUIT ATHLETE: To jump over New York felt absolutely amazing. It was such a beautiful morning and the buildings were shining, and Jersey on one side, New York on the other. Felt awesome.

PEREIRA: And Jeff, both of you are, sounds like all five of you, have ties to Manhattan. Must have been extra special?

JEFF PROVENZANO, WINGSUIT ATHLETE: Yes. It really was. I'd been looking forward to do this for maybe like two or three years I've been talking about this. And it was just like a dream come true to finally make it happen.

CUOMO: How -- what are you doing, exactly? This suit, is it like controlled falling the entire time at a certain rate of speed?

PROVENZANO: Yes. You have a lot of control with these. You can control your angle. Go steep. You can flatten out. You can control your speed, too. So you can go faster or slower.

PEREIRA: Amy, stand up, and you can maybe show us -- we're all just mystified by these suits. Look at this thing. You do look a bit like a bat. Don't you?


CUOMO: Flying squirrel.

PROVENZANO: Flying squirrel.

BOLDUAN: I think it's like -- kind of like a kite, for lack of a better term?

PROVENZANO: Yes. It's a human kite.

CUOMO: How did you figure it out? Like how is the testing done to figure out like when there's enough.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I feel like there's very little room for error in your flight path that you guys decided to take. That was one shot -- right. Like you had --


BOLDUAN: So how did you prepare.

CHMELECKI: We had classes. We went to upstate New York at a place called the ranch and we practiced on Saturday our line and we kind of (inaudible) figuring out how exactly we were going to put it over the city. We only had one shot -- so

PEREIRA: When you say -- when you say practice we were talking about that. They're not -- Chris you see there's no margin for error. When you're first starting out how do you do that? It doesn't seem like something you want training wheels on?

PROVENZA: Well, you start at the beginning with sky diving. You learn how to just skydive at first. You do tandem, you learn how to go free fall, solo. And you acquire a couple of hundred jumps and then you can move on to wing suits.

BOLDUAN: What did you see? I mean it's one thing to be on a plane over --

PEREIRA: Hmm, that view.

BOLDUAN: You know, flying -- LaGuardia or JFK or whatever, what did you see from your perspective? What surprised you?

CHMELECKI: For me, my focus was my wing man to the left. So pretty much I saw him most of the time, but I could see -- I could see Manhattan and I could see the Freedom Tower. Oh, my God. It's the Freedom Tower, and then you could see Jersey but mostly it's just breathing and focus on my --

CUOMO: Why would you focus on Jersey when you're flying over Manhattan?

CHMELECKI: That was my slot.

PROVENZANO (?): Everything else might feel like (inaudible) could do.


PEREIRA: -- Like the next jumps you guys have scheduled, might pale in comparison. This was pretty cool.

PROVENZANO: Yes. I mean this one tops it. I was kind of thinking the same thing. I have some cool jumps set up over the summer, too, but this was probably the -- number one.

CUOMO: You ever have like that's moment when you're sitting around in a suit and you're like, I'm going to jump out of a plane and this is all I have on?

PROVENZANO: We wear parachute cells.

CUOMO: Just in case --

PROVENZANO: Oh, no. You have to.

CHMELECKI: We've got to.


PEREIRA: Right there.

BOLDUAN: Right there. And that's not an easy target.

CHMELECKI: That was the hardest part.

PEREIRA: That was the hardest part -- Amy.

CHMELECKI: Yes. It was definitely challenging landing on that small barge in the water.

CUOMO: Like Sullenberger.


PEREIRA: Any major -- what were the limitations you guys were dealing with because airspace around Manhattan is very restrictive?

PROVENZANO: We had to get permissions from the FAA and also from the city.

BOLDUAN: A lot of planning.

PROVENZANO: Yes, it took months.

PEREIRA: Jeff Provenzano --

BOLDUAN: You have some great videos to show for it.

PEREIRA: Amy Chmelecki, your parents are very patient people. Must think you're crazy. Thanks for coming in and bringing the suits. This was really fascinating.

PROVENZANO: Our pleasure.

CUOMO: Most impressive landing in the Hudson since Capt. Sullenberger.

BOLDUAN: Right. How do you follow that?

CUOMO: Good stuff -- guys. Good luck going forward.

PEREIRA: Yes. Keep us posted.

CHMELECKI: Thank you.

CUOMO: Thank you for giving us a little taste of the thrill action. Well, that's good stuff.

When we come back, we're going to have even more. Listen to this one. Cars coming at these two kids out of control. What does this teen do? Doesn't think twice. Saves his friend. Amazing story, straight ahead.


CUOMO: This is a good one. We haven't told you one like this before. 15-year-old Cameron Howell, he did a very brave thing. He's walking with his friend Ellie to meet some of their buddies and this truck comes out of nowhere.


ELLIE FIELDER, SAVED BY FRIEND: He was walking on the side with the cars being a gentleman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he grabbed your arm?

FIELDER: He grabbed me arm and pushed me when the car was coming.


CUOMO: A gentleman and then some. Ellie is saved. The truck hits Cameron dead-on. He gets banged up as you see. Broken bone, compressed spine but he is expected to be OK. Like so many people we introduce you to who are heroes he doesn't think he is one.


CAMERON HOWELL, SAVED FRIEND: I don't think I should be a hero. I just help add friend in need.


CUOMO: Strong.

Turns out Cameron might have an ulterior motive here. You see, the nurses noticed that when Ellie came to visit, the heart rate -- went up.


HOWELL: That was also because the doctor was playing with my leg. OK? I think it's a pretty strong bond now.

FIELDER: And he's going to be my best friend for the rest of my life.


CUOMO: Isn't that nice?

Now, not so nice. The driver of the truck, charged with DUI. Hmm.

BOLDUAN: That is some good stuff, though.

PEREIRA: Amazing. Amazing.

CUOMO: But that's nice.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: He didn't think -- it was instinct. That's how it should be.

CUOMO: Strong man though.

BOLDUAN: A gentleman to his core.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Another dose of the good stuff before we let you go. It seems like we're dealing with a bit of a baby boom, folks, here on NEW DAY. The NEW DAY family getting bigger by the day -- we have another baby announcement.

We just have to take a moment to congratulate our technical program manager, Dan Scalley and his wife Evelyn. Daniel Rafael Scalley was born -- strong name -- late last night and very healthy, 8 pounds, 11 ounces. Evelyn, I hope you're feeling very well today. Congratulations, you guys.

CUOMO: Good head shape. Good hair. Good cheeks. That's all the --

BOLDUAN: Pure adorable.

CUOMO: I have a weird shaped head. Still do.

Coming up on the "NEWSROOM" -- a lot of stories to get through to let's get you right to Carol Costello -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: What's in the water up there?

BOLDUAN: I don't know Carol. Don't come to New York.

CUOMO: It's contagious.