- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Many months will pass before rewards are paid to tipsters whose information helped police arrest the suspects in the string of sniper attacks last month.
"I would beg of you, do not be surprised, do not be upset if the process takes a while," said Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose, head of a task force that will determine who will receive the $500,000 reward.
The reasons for the delay include:
About 60,000 callers phoned in tips. The task force must determine which tips led to the arrest and indictments of John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17. Both men are in custody in Virginia, charged with capital murder in two of the sniper attacks, but neither has been indicted.
Tipsters may be witnesses at the murder trials. They might be accused of being paid for their testimony if they receive reward money before the trials.
"We don't want them to be interpreted as paid witnesses," Chief Moose said yesterday.
Since Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo were arrested Oct. 24, they have been accused of killing 14 persons across the United States. Ten slayings and four woundings occurred in Maryland, Virginia and the District in October.
Also at yesterday's news conference, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said the recovering victims and the families of those killed "need help now" and presented a modified check of $115,945.77 to the United Way for that purpose. The money was the excess above the $500,000 contributed for rewards.
"In this season of giving, I would ask that we all find it in our hearts to help the families of those who were impacted by the shootings," Mr. Duncan said.
On Monday, Victims' Rights Foundation founder Gregory Wims said $260,000 had been evenly distributed. He said another $30,000 will be evenly distributed by Dec. 31, when the foundation's fund drive will conclude.
"We will then continue to work with the United Way and Salvation Army to get as much as possible for the families," Mr. Wims said.
Salvation Army Maj. Earl Fitzgerald said about $95,000 has been received for victims assistance. Distribution will begin Dec. 2.
Two Prince George's County men, who were robbed and wounded a month before the sniper rampage, reportedly have complained that they were not paid from the funds for victims. John LaRuffa, 55, a Clinton restaurant owner, was robbed of $3,000 and a laptop computer on the night of Sept. 5. The computer was later found in the sniper suspects' car. Muhammed Rashid, 32, has not returned to work at a Brandywine liquor store since he was wounded the day after Mr. LaRuffa's shooting.
The two men also are eligible for Maryland's violent crime victims assistance program that will pay more than $30,000 of hospital costs.
"We will take a liberal view of victims," said Mr. Duncan, suggesting that Mr. LaRuffa and Mr. Rashid might receive financial assistance from the various funds.
United Way Executive Vice President Robert Egger said the National Capital Area Healing Fund was established after the October shooting siege for families affected by the sniper attacks. The presentation by Mr. Duncan included $51,000 from California businessman Tim Blixseth, who also gave $100,000 early on to the reward fund.
"I wish [the shootings] hadn't happened," said Mr. Blixseth, who received a certificate of appreciation from Mr. Duncan.
Mr. Blixseth, a California developer, said he was considering donations after six shootings in Montgomery County on Oct. 2 and 3, and followed through after a 13-year-old Tasker Middle School boy was critically wounded in Bowie on Oct. 7. Mr. Blixseth and his wife, Edra, a restaurateur, have a reputation for charitable giving.
"That's the way we are," said Mr. Blixseth, recounting how he and his wife watched a newscast about a woman and three children whose home had burned. The couple gave the woman $5,000 but said there "is a string attached," that she must help others in need for the rest of her life.
"She started crying, and you know what she said to me?" Mr. Blixseth said. "I'm already doing that.
"I think it makes people feel better."

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