Evidence from 13 shootings believed to have been the work of the Washington-area sniper suspects has been moved to a new task force headquarters in Centreville, about halfway between the courts where the suspects face trials.
Virginia authorities have access to all the physical evidence gathered from the various crime scenes, including the car the suspects were sleeping in when they were captured, the rifle prosecutors believe was used in the killings and letters written by the snipers.
“It’s a process of accumulating what evidence you’re going to need,” said Robert F. Horan Jr., the chief prosecutor in Fairfax County, where 17-year-old John Lee Malvo is charged with one count of capital murder.
“There’s an awful lot of evidence out there that may be of use in some cases and not in other cases. It’s a process of sorting it out,” Mr. Horan said.
The prosecution task force, now down to a few dozen local, state and federal agents, has been investigating 21 shootings believed to be part of a series of attacks that stretched from the Pacific Northwest to the Deep South and the D.C. area.
The teenager and John Allen Muhammad, 41, are charged in 13 shootings 10 of them fatal in the Washington area, and are suspected in eight other shootings across the country.
They were arrested at a Maryland highway rest stop Oct. 24 as they slept in the dark blue Chevrolet Caprice they are suspected of using in many of the shootings.
Since the arrests, task force members have been gathering in Centreville to go over sensitive information before dispersing to chase any promising leads, said James A. Willett and Richard A. Conway, assistant prosecutors in Prince William County.
Investigators from Virginia, Maryland, the District, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have shared information and evidence over the past two weeks in individual meetings about each of the sniper shootings in the Washington area and attacks in Montgomery, Ala., and Atlanta that have been linked to the suspects.
“We’re reviewing all the evidence in close coordination with the prosecutors,” said Prince William Police Chief Charlie T. Deane. “This is a murder case that is a local murder case, and we’re preparing it as such, keeping in mind the relationship this case has to all the other cases.”
Defense attorneys also are preparing to go to extraordinary lengths in the cases.
Todd D. Petit, the teenager’s court-appointed guardian, said he is tracking down information about his client’s background for a report to be presented to a judge before a Jan. 14 preliminary hearing in Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
The judge will determine whether the teenager will be tried as an adult and face the death penalty.
Mr. Petit said he has learned some details from Mr. Malvo’s mother, Una James, who is in Seattle awaiting deportation to Jamaica.
“She is very concerned about her son,” he said. “She has been helpful in leading me to information that I think is very important, and people will need to know about her son.”
Mr. Petit said Mrs. James has not been able to speak to her son. Last month, federal immigration officials ordered her deported.
Mr. Muhammad is scheduled to appear today in Prince William County Circuit Court, where a trial date will be set and arguments heard about whether television cameras will be allowed in the courtroom. Several television outlets have asked the court to allow a broadcast of the trial, arguing that the public has a right to see it.
One of the elder suspect’s attorneys, Peter D. Greenspun, opposes video coverage. He argues that such coverage would be disruptive and could jeopardize the fairness of Mr. Muhammad’s trial. The elder suspect also is charged with two counts of capital murder.
“Can anyone maintain that the televising of the O.J. Simpson case did not impact the prosecution, defense witnesses and court?” Mr. Greenspun wrote in a response to a motion.
Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert also opposes TV cameras.