Return to Transcripts main page
Violence in Syria Continues; Detroit Serial Killer?; Top Political Scandals of 2011 Reviewed; Man Returns $10,000 in Cash He Found at Airport; Rick Santorum Goes Hunting in Iowa; Interview With Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee
Aired December 27, 2011 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: All right, straight to "Reporter Roulette."
We're watching Syria, where violence continued today, despite the arrival of an observer mission from the Pentagon. We're also watching Pakistan, where the government has a problem with the U.S. military's version of a mistaken airstrike. And wait until you see the dreadful weather about to smash into the entire East Coast. We're in the CNN Severe Weather Center for all of that.
Welcome to you all.
First to Cairo and CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom.
Mohammed, the Arab League fact-finding mission went to work today in Syria. Tell us what you know about where they went and what they're seeing.
MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Isha, we heard today that they went to the city of Homs.
That's the flash point city where we heard reports of increasing violence, deaths and injuries the past few days. There were videos purporting to show members of the Arab League in Homs today. One video purports to show the head of the mission being shown remnants of weapons there by residents in the city.
Another video purports to show the members of the delegation there with residents of Homs basically saying that they wanted the members of this league to go to other parts of the city to see some of the harder-hit areas. And then in that video you hear gunfire later on.
We can't verify the authenticity of these videos, but they are corroborated with what we're being told on the ground there by eyewitnesses -- Isha.
SESAY: Mohammed, you mentioned gunfire on the video. What do we know about whether these clashes quieted down or how severe any reported clashes were today in Syria? Again, we need to point out, the fact-finding mission is on the ground and according to reports there's still violence going on. JAMJOOM: That's right. That's the key thing. Even on the day these observers finally arrived in the city of Homs where there have been so many calls for them to come to the last few days, we're hearing increasing reports of violence today. There were demonstrations in Homs.
Later in the day, we heard from activists who said that there were crackdowns going on at least in two parts of the city, that live ammunition and tear gas was being used to disperse crowds in different squares in the city of Homs. We have also heard of crackdowns going on -- this is according to activist -- crackdowns going on in the city of Hama and several people there today killed as well.
It really begs the question by activists and opposition groups in Syria, how effective can this mission be? The Arab League delegation says they will have free access to whatever area they want, that they will be able to go wherever they want, and that they're doing this mission, but again many people there saying that the Arab League really not getting the unfettered access by the Syrian regime that this delegation really needs to be getting -- Isha.
SESAY: Mohammed Jamjoom joining us there from Cairo, Mohammed, thank you.
Next on "Reporter Roulette," CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, she's keeping an eye on the still testy relationship between the militaries of the United States and Pakistan.
Barbara, today, we want to focus on that unfortunate and very deadly airstrike that happened last month on the border there in Pakistan. Bring us up to date, because there have been some developments.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Isha.
We have been talking about this for over a month. A U.S. airstrike killing some 24 Pakistani troops on the border, a lot of confusion went on during this border fight, U.S. firing on Pakistan, Pakistan firing on the U.S. Now Pakistan has come out with its own version of what transpired.
Pakistan is adamant that the U.S. fired on them first, that their border troops were lightly armed, that they came under repeated fire, that even when they tried to rescue their own troops, that the U.S. kept firing.
Now a U.S. report, officially, the investigation is out, and the U.S. military is saying there's confusion on both sides of the border there, but also putting a lot of the blame directly on U.S. and NATO commanders for some of what transpired.
I just want to read you one of the conclusions the U.S. military investigator came to. He says -- quote -- "Headquarters and individuals did not respond correctly, quickly enough or with the sense of urgency or initiative required given the gravity of the situation." The U.S. military now will take a look at all of this and see if any officials or troops or commanders should be held accountable, but the relationship between the two sides still one of great mistrust and no resolution really as to how this all happened, Isha.
SESAY: Yes, indeed. I know that in the immediate aftermath one of the border crossing areas, it was closed. What is the situation on the ground in terms of the fallout?
STARR: By all accounts, two border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan remain closed to NATO truck traffic, supplies coming in for the war effort in Afghanistan.
The relationship remains frosty, to say the least. No one is disputing that. The U.S. says they have taken responsibility for their mistakes. Officials saying they'd like to see Pakistan do the same, but, also, the U.S. now offering compensation funds to the families of those Pakistani troops who lost their lives -- Isha.
SESAY: Major developments there, Barbara Starr joining us there from the Pentagon. Barbara, thank you.
SESAY: On to the serious stuff. In the last eight days, the bodies of four women found hidden in car trunks in Detroit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't tell you how to characterize it, but we're stopping short of calling this any kind of serial pattern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Coming up, we will tell you about a possible connection to a Web site that features adults ads.
Plus, a young girl is beaten to death in Indiana, and now investigators have a break in the case. The details are straight ahead.
And a man finds $10,000 in cash in unmarked envelopes in the Vegas Airport. This hour on CNN, I'm going to talk live to the man who found the money and he returned it.
SESAY: I'm Isha Sesay in for Brooke Baldwin today.
If it's interesting and happening right now, you're about to see it, "Rapid Fire." Let's go.
Federal investigators are in Florida to examine the wreckage of a helicopter crash that killed three people on a medical flight. The Mayo Clinic says two of its employees, a surgeon and a medical technician, died in the crash. The pilot also lost his life. The chopper was flying the medical staffers to the University of Florida in Gainesville to harvest organs. There's no word on what caused the crash.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSE OBREGON, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: We will look into the pilot's skills, his training, his performance. We will also look into the weather. We also have radar data.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Well, the man accused of killing a 9-year-old Indiana girl made his initial court appearance today. Police found the body of Aliahna Lemmon last night, four days after she was last seen. According to court papers, the man charged with her murder admits to beating the little girl to death, then dismembering her.
Neighbors say the man is a close family friend and was baby- sitting the 9-year-old and her two sisters while their mother was sick. Police are not yet releasing a motive for the girl's killing.
A California toddler somehow survived after a fall from a two- story window. San Jose police say the boy's mother tossed the 22- month-old child from the window and then jumped out herself. The boy suffered bumps and bruises. His mother was treated for broken bones in her feet. She faces attempted murder and child abuse charges. Police say the woman has a history of mental illness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSE GARCIA, SAN JOSE POLICE DEPARTMENT: According to the family, she had recently undergone some type of emotional distress, and I believe she also sought medical attention because of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Another challenge arises to the Democrats' control of the Senate. A Democratic source is telling CNN that Nebraska's Ben Nelson is about to announce his retirement. Former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey has reportedly spoken with Democrats about running for the seat himself.
After-Christmas shopping can get a little crazy. But, seriously, watch with me what happened yesterday at the Mall of America. Police arrested several people after a couple of fights broke out. They say it all started in the food court. Witnesses describe the whole thing as pretty chaotic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people are running. Some people are just staying. People are like confronting each other like in the middle of people just walking. Nobody was even around. They were just going at it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden, stores just started closing down and the gates were going up. So we just didn't really know what was going on. Then the cops were pushing us all away from, like, Nordstrom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Well, it took up to 30 police officers to bring the brawl under control.
The company that owns Sears and Kmart stores are shutting doors for goods at more than 100 locations. Corporate officials blame lukewarm holiday sales on top of an already difficult retail climate. No announcement yet on which stores will close or how soon.
Thanks to the heroics of a Kansas man, two girls who fell through an icy pond are alive. Bud Brown happened to be looking out his window when he saw the girls fall through the ice. Brown ran to the pond, jumped in and was able to pull the children out of the freezing water. He took them to his home, wrapped them in blankets and called 911.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUD BROWN, RESCUE TWO GIRLS: It took me a little while to get to them because the ice was about one-inch thick. It seemed like it got thicker the closer I got, but just pounding, trying to break the ice. And when it got deeper, I couldn't break the ice. At the time, I wasn't really thinking about it. I just wanted to get them out of there and make sure they were OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: We're pleased they're all OK.
But a gruesome story to tell you about now, the bodies of four dead women found in car trunks in Detroit. And check this out. There's a possible connection to a Web site featuring adult ads. Detroit's police chief is standing by to talk to us live after this very quick break.
Stay with us.
SESAY: Internet escort ads are linked to horrific deaths in Detroit. Police uncovered the bodies of four women in car trunks in the past eight days.
And as Mara MacDonald with affiliate WDIV reports, three of them advertise in the adult services section of a Web site.
MARA MACDONALD, WDIV REPORTER (voice-over): How strong is the link to this Web site? Strong enough for Chief Ralph Godbee to come out and sound the alarm. Three of these four dead women advertised themselves as escorts on Backpage.com. RALPH GODBEE, DETROIT POLICE CHIEF: We felt that it's imperative to alert the public that deciding to meet unknown persons via the Internet can be extremely dangerous. We implore people to be careful and always let someone know exactly where they're going, who they're with.
MACDONALD: The first set of women were found on December 19, dead in the trunk of a car on Promenade Street on Detroit's East Side. There were no obvious signs of trauma to the bodies. A cause of death is still pending. But what police really want to take a look at is the toxicology report, which isn't back yet.
Were these women drugged before they were killed and with what? The second set of bodies were found in the trunk of a burning car around 1:00 a.m. on Christmas morning. The bodies are burned beyond recognition. Still, the chief says they have got a tentative I.D. placing the women as 28 and 29 years old.
GODBEE: So, our sole purpose this afternoon is for the public to be cognizant of this Web site when engaged in these adult dating activities or what they refer to as escort services. We want to put the public on alert.
SESAY: Well, we have reached out to Backpage.com for comment, but so far no response.
I want to bring in Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, who joins us on the phone.
Chief, thanks so much for joining us.
Talk, if you would, to us a little bit about how you went about connecting these women to escort ads on Backpage.
GODBEE: Well, Isha, first of all, it was just great police work by our homicide detectives.
And as soon as my chief of homicide was apprised of the connection, we thought it very prudent for us to go up public with what we know because at the end of the day, averting another young lady or two to become victims of what we believe to be homicide, I think that's the overriding concern at this point.
SESAY: Yes, indeed, keeping people safe.
Talk to us about the state of the victims. Tell us as much as you can about the state they were found in.
GODBEE: Well, the first set of victims, they were deceased, and the coroner, after doing initial autopsy, there were no outward signs of trauma, so the autopsy results are pending.
And toxicology is really going to be key as the determinant towards the cause of death. With the second set of women, the two women, their bodies were burned beyond recognition. With that in mind, and then the tie to the Web site, obviously, we are proceeding as if this is two murder scenes because the efforts to secrete the bodies and hide them and then in the second instance literally torching the bodies beyond recognition, obviously, there's something that we can't wait for toxicology to determine it's a homicide before we complete our investigation.
SESAY: Now, to pick up on what you said, you said you're considering these two murder scenes, that you're considering them at this stage the work of one suspect.
GODBEE: Yes, at this point, we are working it as one case or one suspect or set of suspects because of the similarities, the location where the bodies were found, the proximity, the M.O., the modus operandi. There are too many common links for us not to at this point work this as one single investigation.
SESAY: You talked about the toxicology reports, results and how important they are. What kind of timeline do you have for when you will get those results?
GODBEE: We have asked for the results to be expedited. So, at this point, I really can't put a time frame on it. But we do feel that those results are imminent any day now. And to that extent, for us to understand the cause of death, if there's similarities there, it will further enhance our theory that this is the work of the same individual or group of individuals.
Again, to that end, the work of the same individual or group of individuals will have some people at home wondering whether we're talking about a serial killer or serial killers?
GODBEE: A reasonable person would conclude that. We have four bodies already. And when you tie it to the adult escort service as the single codifying event in both instances, it's reasonable to say that.
And, again, I want to compliment my investigators for picking up on a pattern very early, before we have even more bodies show up under similar circumstances.
SESAY: Chief, have you reached out to Backpage for their help in this investigation?
GODBEE: Yes, we have. And I spoke with my chief of detectives today. And they are fully cooperating with us as far as -- we will get search warrants. We will look at things relative to I.P. addresses, cell phones, things of that nature to start putting this puzzle together. But, to date, they have been cooperative.
SESAY: All right, you said that obviously as soon as you establish this connection between these victims, these four victims and Backpage.com, you wanted to get that information out because it's about keeping people safe. What's your view now on what should be done with sites like these that allow adult services advertising?
GODBEE: You know, for me, Isha, it's borderline prostitution.
We can parse words and look at the legal aspects of it. And I certainly will be speaking with the state attorney general because of my concerns relative to the adult escort policies that are being embraced by this company. But right now, that's a more strategic long-term fight that we have to deal with. Right now, we want to get to the bottom of how these four individuals passed away and who had a hand in their demise.
SESAY: And just one last question before I let you go, Chief Godbee. I know that you were able to tentatively identify some of the victims, at least two of the victims. Have you been able to notify next of kin? What can you tell us about that?
GODBEE: Yes, the first two victims have been positively identified.
Family members are fully aware of the course of our investigation. The second set of members, their families have been identified. And the reason why we're saying tentative, we're matching them with physical descriptions, but obviously because of the complete devastation that the fire did to the bodies, there's further confirmatory tests that have to be done by the medical examiner before we can conclusively say that those two individuals are who we believe they are.
SESAY: OK. Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, appreciate your time today. Thank you so much.
GODBEE: Thank you.
SESAY: We are now just one week away from the first Republican primary contest. We take you live to Iowa after this quick break. So do stay with us.
SESAY: Five GOP presidential candidates are working Iowa today. They're holding events as the state's caucuses are only one week away.
Jim Acosta is live from Des Moines with an America's Choice 2012 Politics update.
Jim, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann all participating in a town hall tonight, but no Mitt Romney. Why not if he's there, too?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isha, he has an event out in Davenport, Iowa, and that's on the eastern side of the state, later on this evening. It is curious that he's not involved.
Mitt Romney has kept his distance somewhat from social conservatives in this state. And this radio town hall that is taking place later tonight, is being hosted by a prominent social conservative in this state. So that might be the reason why, Isha.
But it's going to be interesting. There are no more debates before the Iowa caucuses, which is just one week from today. And so this might be the closest thing that we have to a debate in these remaining days. We will hear from all of these candidates talking about issues like abortion, gay rights. And if there are any slip-ups or oops moments, we will, of course, hear about them.
SESAY: Yes, we certainly will.
Let me ask you this. With one week to Iowa caucuses, are we seeing an upsurge or upswing in ads? I'm wondering the tenor the and tone of these last couple days.
ACOSTA: Big time. That's right. A pro-Gingrich super PAC has basically just come out and announced that it is going to start blanketing the airwaves here in Iowa with its own ads.
You can probably bet that they might have something to do with Mitt Romney. The Gingrich campaign has essentially all but dropped its stay-positive pledge in the remaining days of this campaign. That's because the former speaker has been pounded by Mitt Romney, as you know, in the last week or so, not only by Romney himself, but by a pro-Romney super PAC.
And I was just talking to the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party a couple of hours ago. And he's amazed, Isha, by just how wide- open this field is at this really final stage of the campaign before the Iowa caucuses. He's never seen anything like this, where you essentially have a logjam at the top, three candidates who are basically tied, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, who could all win the Iowa caucuses.
And then you have a bottom tier or perhaps medium tier of candidates, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry, who also have a decent shot if they can get a late surge at winning these caucuses. I was talking to the chair of the Republican Party here in Iowa, Matt Strawn, who said he hasn't seen anything like this in a very long time, Isha.
SESAY: Indeed, we are all gripped.
Jim Acosta joining us there from Des Moines, Iowa, always appreciate it. Thank you.
Well, Wolf Blitzer will have Newt Gingrich live in "THE SITUATION ROOM" today. You check that out. And just a reminder, live coverage of the first Republican contest, the Iowa caucuses, begins here on CNN next Tuesday, January the 3rd, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
It's been one heck of a year in politics, hasn't it? Well, coming up, we're going to walk you through the highlights from 2011.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SESAY: A congressman in a tiger suit, a wife allegedly flushing a bribe down the toilet, the year in politics or scandals, sex and the super committee. CNN's Joe Johns counts down the top political stories of 2011 starting, with number 10.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Number 10, the Herman-ator. Maybe next time the Cardigans will play his song. We ought to devote a whole segment to one candidate for president because he meant so much to so many. What would this election season have been without the pizza man himself, Herman Cain? Whether it was his request for Secret Service protection even before his wife found out about the alleged 13-year affair with a woman that Cain denied ever having, or was it his now infamous brain freeze when talking about Libya?
HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reasons. No, that's a different one.
JOHNS: Herman Cain was the candidate to beat for a little off- beat levity on the campaign trail this year. Suffice it to say when he finally rolled up his campaign banners and walked off into the sunset, as his last official act, he actually quoted "Pokemon, the Movie."
CAIN: Life can be a challenge.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Life can be a challenge.
CAIN: Life can seem impossible.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Life can seem impossible.
CAIN: It's never easy when there's so much on the line.
JOHNS: Number nine --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two women are at the door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't answer it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not.
JOHNS: If they had only use ad really large girdle, they might have gotten away with it. Former Prince George's county, Maryland, executive Jack Johnson and his wife Leslie were a power couple who got caught on the wrong side of the law. Court documents said he took bribes ranging from $400,000 to $1 million. But where there's a high- level bribery, an FBI wiretap operation seems almost always not far behind. When the agents were knocking on the door, the audiotape of the moment was not pretty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you want me to do with this money? They are banging.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put it in your panties and walk out the house.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, but I mean all this money, Jack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put it in your panties.
JOHNS: Number eight, if he dressed up as an elephant or a donkey, would anyone have noticed? Democratic Congressman David Wu of Oregon got caught on camera dressed as a tiger suit. But he didn't resign his jobs until reports surfaced he had an unwanted sexual encounter with the 18-year-old daughter of a longtime friend and campaign donor.
Number seven, and after all this time they thought they were smarter than everybody else. A bill to outlaw insider trading by members of Congress got on a fast track after a series of reports about how House members with special access to financial information always seemed to outperform the market on their Wall Street investments.
Number six, and the lowest blood sugar of the campaign award goes to Rick Perry. Sometimes he seemed all over the place, completely forgetting part of his stump speech in the middle of a nationally televised debate.
RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I will tell you, it's three agencies of government when I get there that are gone -- commerce, education, and the -- what's the third one there? Let's see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't name the third one?
PERRY: The third agency of government I would do away with -- education, the commerce. And let's see -- I can't. The third one I can't, sorry. Oops.
JOHNS: At another time almost completely over the top, almost too much energy. What's going on with this guy?
PERRY: This is such a cool state. I mean, come on, "Live free or die"? You got to love that, right?
PERRY: I come from a state where they had this little place called the Alamo and they declared victory or death. We're kind of into those slogans man. Live free or die, victory or death. Bring it.
The ones that want to stay in the old system, pay the lawyers, pay the accountants, all that money that's gone, or that 20 percent flat tax put it on there, take your deductions off, send it in. Today has been awesome, girl!
JOHNS: Into the handlers, in endurance sports, and that's what this campaign is, some brain freeze is also what you can call bonking or hitting the wall, nothing that can't be fixed with a protein bar and a banana. Please, keep it on the bus for all of us.
SESAY: So what was the top political story of 2011? Hint, it involves something some would say is more hated than Congress. Joe Johns finishes the countdown next.
SESAY: John Ensign and Anthony Weiner, it make take you a bit of time to remember who they are, but that's OK. But at one point this year there wasn't a news broadcast that didn't mention them. They make up two of the top five political stories in 2011. CNN's Joe Johns continues with the countdown.
JOHNS: Number five, somehow he completely missed that writing on the wall. When he resigned his office this year, Republican Senator John Ensign said he was leaving the capital to save his family from embarrassment. But now it looks like he got out of politics because he couldn't raise enough money to get reelected. Why couldn't he raise enough money? Maybe because of his money handling skills? He got his parents to give his girlfriend and her husband a $96,000 gift, ostensibly to keep the affair quiet.
Number four, no, what I said was congressman-elect. Democratic New York Congressman Anthony Weiner was absolutely adamant that someone hacked his twitter account after what you might call an inappropriate photo was sent to a college student under Weiner's name. It was only after CNN's Wolf Blitzer pressed Weiner on the owner of the briefs in the picture that Weiner slowly started to come clean.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": You would know if this is your underpants.
ANTHONY WEINER, (D) FORMER NEW YORK REPRESENTATIVE: Photographs can be manipulated. Photographs can be taken from one place and put in another place. Photos can be doctored. I want to make sure that we know for sure what happened here. It certainly doesn't look familiar to me, but I don't want to say with certitude to you something that I don't know to be the truth. I do know some certain truths here.
JOHNS: Not long after that interview, the truth came out.
WEINER: To be clear, the picture was of me and I sent it.
JOHNS: Ten days later his once promising political career was toast.
WEINER: Unfortunately the distraction I have created has made that impossible. So today I'm announcing my resignation from Congress. JOHNS: Number three, and no, the show can't be call real ex- wives of D.C. Michaele and Tareq Salahi finally called it quits in the most embarrassing and tabloid fashion possible. They're the White House party crashers who somehow slipped into a state dinner and rubbed elbows with the rich and powerful, including the president, setting off a security paranoia in the complex that continues to this day.
The Salahis broke up just a few days before a bankruptcy sale of their home Virginia's wine country when she ran off to Nashville with the lead guitarist from the rock and roll band Journey.
Number two, it sounded like it was right out of the comic books. It turns out that wasn't too far off. A legion of super friends, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman and their allies, the super committee of 12 superheroes, named this year to save the day on Capitol Hill, cut spending, make everything taste great and less filling. With the bad guys on Wall Street threatening to downgrade Uncle Sam's credit, the super committee was brought together to rescue us from ourselves.
Unfortunately it didn't work. Didn't the bad guys win? Didn't they win the last time, too?
And number one on the list, guess who is laughing all the way to the bank this time? After nearly taking down the economy three years ago and getting massive bailouts from the federal government, the banks are now mostly back, recording record profits again though for much of this year, unemployment hovered at or near 9 percent. The good news is, if you work at a bank, you'll probably be just fine.
SESAY: Our Joe Johns there.
A man finds $10,000 in cold hard cash in unmarked envelopes in the Las Vegas airport, and then he gave the money back. He is standing by live right now for us. Coming up, we're going to ask him what it feels like to find that much cash and give it back. Stay with us.
POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: Time now for the help desk, where we get answers for your financial questions. And joining me this hour, Gary Schatsky, a financial planner and the president of ObjectiveAdvice.com, Gail Cunningham is with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Thank you both for being here.
Gail, first question to you, this comes from Julie in Ohio. Julie Writes "My son has over $100,000 in private loans from school but he isn't making enough to cover the monthly costs. My husband and I are cosigners on a good portion of those loans. Should we dig into our 401(k) to pay them down?" This is tough.
GAIL CUNNINGHAM, NATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR CREDIT COUNSELING: It is tough. And these parents are going to have to choose between bad and worse -- ruin their credit or raid their retirement. People don't understand often when they co-sign on a loan, they are equally responsible for the payments and fulfillment of that debt. And all the activity is reported on both the cosigner and the primary signer's credit report.
So if the payments are not being made, their credit is tanking which will, of course, negatively impact their future access to credit. If they raid their retirement -- I'm not for that either. I might suggest that, if they're still contributing to their retirement plans, maybe suspend that temporarily, temporarily is the key word until the son can get back on his feet and assume the responsibility himself.
HARLOW: That's a great point.
Gary, your question is from Bill in Missouri. Bill writes "My wife and I each have a 401(k). Is it better to combine them or keep them separate?"
GARY SCHATSKY, OBJECTIVEADVICE.COM: Well, it's an easy answer. You can't combine 401(k)'s from two different people. The only way it ends up getting combined is it becomes an IRA and then you inherit it. So it's not really a choice we have.
HARLOW: It's not a choice, and they can always roll over into an IRA is they want to.
HARLOW: Guys, thank you so much. And if you have a question you want answered, just send an e-mail any time to CNNhelpdesk@CNN.com.
SESAY: A Colorado father took the ultimate test of honesty and passed with flying colors. He found $10,000 in cash and returned it. Would you have done that? Will Ripley from our Denver affiliate KUSA has the story.
MITCH GILBERT, FOUND $10,000 IN LAS VEGAS AIRPORT: Of all crazy things, I won money in Vegas that weekend.
WILL RIPLEY, KUSA: Nobody expects to become a saint in sin city.
GILBERT: I felt like I was floating on air. I felt like a million bucks. If it happened to me, I sure would want that back.
RIPLEY: Gilbert found something at the airport before his flight home to Colorado.
GILBERT: They were two Caesars Palace envelopes.
RIPLEY: Both of those envelopes unmarked.
GILBERT: I just about fell over. I could believe it.
RIPLEY: He opened them when he got home.
GILBERT: There was $5,000 in each envelope.
RIPLEY: Some may have thought they hit jackpot. Not Gilbert.
GILBERT: I wanted to show my kids the right thing to do.
RIPLEY: He called the airport in Las Vegas.
GILBERT: I said somebody has got to be missing this.
RIPLEY: They would not even take his name.
GILBERT: They didn't do that. It was against the rules.
RIPLEY: Bill kept calling.
GILBERT: She goes, this is breaking the rules, but you're trying to do the right thing.
RIPLEY: The operator told him a man from El Paso, Texas, reported losing two Caesar's Palace envelopes full of cash.
GILBERT: I knew right then that was the guy.
IGNACIO MARQUEZ, LOST MONEY: I will always thank Mitch for doing this.
RIPLEY: Ignacio Marquez says he won the money gambling and dropped it as he was running to catch a flight.
MARQUEZ: Cash money, very difficult to get back.
RIPLEY: Marquez knew the odds of someone returning ten grand were pretty slim.
GILBERT: I think he was pretty much in shock. I don't know if he believed it.
RIPLEY: Even though Gilbert's real estate business is slow --
GILBERT: You think about all the bills you can pay.
RIPLEY: -- it was never even a question.
GILBERT: It felt so good to get it back to the guy.
SESAY: Wow. All right, the man at the center of this lost and found story joins me live from Denver, I'm pleased to say. Mitch Gilbert, thank you for joining us. I've got to ask you that question one more time. You had more time to think about it. Were you ever tempted to hold onto the cash? Do you regret giving it back?
GILBERT: No. I will never regret giving it back. Actually, that's the question of the day. A lot of people -- I got a lot of responses. Some people think I was crazy to give it back, but I had to give it back. It wasn't my money to start with. And what people don't understand is that, when I found the envelopes, these are the envelopes.
SESAY: Those are the envelopes.
GILBERT: And here's one of the wrappers with the $5,000, you know, wrapped around it, you know, it was -- I did not know there was $10,000 in the envelope. At that point in time they were just two envelopes laying there.
SESAY: Let me ask you this then. You pick up these envelopes. As I understand it, you did have some sneaky suspicion that money might be in there, but you weren't certain. Why not just open up the envelopes, regardless of what they contain, and just hand them in to security?
GILBERT: What had happened was is that when I saw them laying there, I went to go reach for them, and I noticed that the person in front of me was about 10 feet away. And I went to grab them, and I was ready to tell the gentleman in front of me "I think you left this here" but it felt like money, I didn't know if I'd be returning it to the right person. And as it turned out, he would have been the wrong person.
So what had happened was, the actual envelopes themselves felt, you know, I felt like there was money in there, but I guess, I don't know if you can see, they were completely sealed, no markings. And it's just one of those things that, if it was a piece of mail, you don't open someone's mail. I didn't know -- it felt like cash but I didn't know exactly what was in there. And I felt like I wanted to get it to the right person.
So I stood there and waited. I held them out, waiting for someone to turn around, and no one ever came back. I waited for 30 minutes, and no one ever came back.
SESAY: And connecting with the person whose money it is, it wasn't particularly straightforward, from what I understand. We have the statement from the McCaran international airport. It says "We appreciate Mr. Gilbert's honesty and willingness to set a great example for others and we're pleased our lost and found staff was able to assist in his efforts to track the money's owner."
But you actually pointed out it wasn't the easiest of efforts to track down the owner.
GILBERT: No, it was actually against the rules. I called the first time, and they said, We can't put third parties together. We just don't do that." I go, "You don't understand. This is a large sum of money" and I convinced the woman if it was hers she would definitely want her money back." And she went and looked through the log and the first time I called she said there was no lost money reports except for $600. I said that's not it. Can I leave my name and number and get in touch with me if someone calls in. They said we can't do that. I was astounded. I was trying to do the right thing and they wouldn't take my name and number.
So I said that's fine, I'll just call you next week, and so the money was -- I found it December 6th, and it actually wasn't until December, whatever Thursday was, I think the 22nd, that I called and convinced the woman again, and she kind of remembered me, and that's when the man, the gentleman had reported that it was missing, and we were able to put it together. And she did help us, yes.
SESAY: Mitch Gilbert joining us from Denver we really do appreciate it. Thank you so much, and you are indeed a saint. Thank you.
GILBERT: Thank you. Thank you.
SESAY: Well, Newt Gingrich is talking to our own Wolf Blitzer. "THE SITUATION ROOM" is coming up in a just few minutes. And we'll see Gingrich and more. Wolf Blitzer joins me now live from Iowa. Wolf, good to see you. What can we expect?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": We're going to have the former speaker of the House, the Republican presidential candidate in Dubuque, Iowa, we'll talk about the campaign, talk about politics, talk about some substantive issues out there, domestic issues, economic issues, jobs, of course, national security-related matters. It's a wide-ranging interview with the Republican presidential front-runner, Newt Gingrich. He'll join us live this coming hour here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
By the way, tomorrow we'll have an interview with Mitt Romney here in Iowa as well. So we're one week away, Isha, so the stakes are enormous right now.
SESAY: A lot of big news to come. Wolf we look forward to it. Thanks so much for joining us.
We're going to take a quick break. Stay with us.
SESAY: Ron Paul hopes to get his campaign cooking in Iowa. He's given out free family recipes at all of his events. Joe Johns is in Des Moines and gearing up for next week's Iowa caucuses. Joe, as you may know, I like to eat so let's focus in on this one. Tell us about this.
JOHNS: Yes. Well you know, it's sort of a down-home way to get close to your constituent or your voters' kitchen table, as it were. This is Ron Paul's cookbook, it's actually his wife, Carol's, cookbook. They put this out every single year. They've been selling it for, what, I think about eight bucks plus shipping and handling, what have you.
We actually reported on this a couple weeks ago. They're actually handing things out at some of these events. And people apparently are soaking them up pretty well. It's 24 pages, not real long, just a handful of recipes. But the whole idea is to sort of maybe raise a little money, but also raise a consciousness of the people that Ron Paul wants to eventually vote for him, Isha.
SESAY: I see some of the recipes, King Ron's chicken, original chocolate chip cookies.
Moving on, let's talk about Rick Santorum, who is also there in Iowa. He went hunting yesterday, we saw him in his orange get-up. But did his teenage son upstage his dad? I'm hearing some rumblings.
JOHNS: Yes, that's definitely true. Also, first, I think you have to say just because this is political reporting we're doing out here, this was an event that was pretty much focused on the NRA crowd, that would be the hunters, the sportsmen, what have you, in Iowa. And this is Rick Santorum going out with a shotgun, going out with his son who just got a shotgun for Christmas, and they bagged a little game, in fact. I think we have a sound bite, hearing from the candidate. Just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We ended up getting a couple shotguns, a couple Weatherbys, and my son John was out here today. It was his time. And so we go out, first bird up, boom, knocks it right out of the air.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: So son John does a little bit better than dad, but they all did some hunting and some shooting. Back to you, Isha.
SESAY: Alright, Joe Johns, appreciate it. That's it with me, Isha Sesay. I want to hand it over to my colleague, Wolf Blitzer. He's In Iowa.