- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

A federal magistrate yesterday ordered accused sniper John Allen Muhammad held without bond pending a trial in the shooting spree that killed 10 persons in Maryland, Virginia and the District.
Mr. Muhammad "is both a flight risk and a danger to the community," said U.S. Magistrate Jillyn K. Schulze. "There is probable cause to believe the defendant participated in a series of multiple murders."
The judge set a preliminary hearing for Friday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
Clad in a burgundy prison jumpsuit, Mr. Muhammad did not speak during the 30-minute detention hearing. He shook hands with three court-appointed federal public defenders as soon as his handcuffs were removed.
Mr. Muhammad's suspected accomplice, John Lee Malvo, 17, was similarly ordered detained during a closed hearing Monday. The two companions, arrested Oct. 24 near Frederick, Md., are suspected in 14 killings since February in Maryland, Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama and Washington state.
Law enforcement authorities nationwide continue to comb cold-case files for potential links to the pair. Police in Tucson, Ariz., are investigating whether Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo were involved in a fatal shooting in that city March 19.
The Tucson probe focuses on the death of Jerry R. Taylor, 60, who was killed while practicing his golf game at a driving range on the city's far east side, authorities said.
The killing was listed as a robbery-homicide. Police said Mr. Taylor was shot with a high-caliber rifle, although no shell casings were discovered at the scene. Something was taken from Mr. Taylor by his killers, although police declined to elaborate.
Tucson police, acting on information from the sniper task force in Maryland, believe the two accused snipers were in the city at the time of the slaying, visiting Mr. Muhammad's sister, Odessa Newell, who lived near the driving range. She has since moved to New Orleans and changed her name to Odessa Williams.
Police said investigators returned to the site yesterday and would spend several days looking for any new evidence and interviewing people who might have been at the driving range at the time of the killing.
Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo, according to police, came to Tucson on a bus from Los Angeles in early March and are believed to have stayed at least three weeks. The renewed investigation would include a look into other crimes that occurred when the two men were in Tucson, police said.
Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms including an ATF dog from Seattle also will take part in the probe. ATF investigators yesterday continued to assist police in Prince George's County, where investigators are looking into the possibility that two non-fatal shootings and robberies in Clinton are connected to Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo.
Law enforcement sources said ballistics tests on bullet fragments recovered after the two shootings were being performed yesterday and likely would be tested against a .22-caliber handgun that had been in Mr. Muhammad's possession and was recovered after a shooting in Montgomery, Ala.
Law enforcement authorities Monday said that a Sony laptop computer stolen from one of the shooting victims was of the same model as one found in Mr. Muhammad's car at the time of his arrest.
At yesterday's hearing, Mr. Muhammad was attentive but expressionless as Assistant U.S. Attorney James Trusty reviewed the 20-count federal criminal complaint filed against the suspect Oct. 29. Several of the counts, which include weapons charges, extorting money and blocking interstate commerce, could result in the death penalty for Mr. Muhammad if he is convicted.
Mr. Trusty said Mr. Muhammad's past use of aliases established him as a flight risk, while the series of "premeditated and heinous murders" were reason to hold Mr. Muhammad until trial.
James Wyda, Mr. Muhammad's lead defender, said the government has nothing but circumstantial evidence against Mr. Muhammad, and that charges of extortion were an effort to "shoehorn" the case into federal court.
"They have disclosed no evidence linking my client to the note or the extortion scheme," Mr. Wyda said. "There is currently no direct evidence that Mr. Muhammad was at the scene of any of these crimes."
But the judge disagreed. She said there was "probable cause" to believe the defendant was a participant in the underlying killings and "strong evidence of his guilt" in several weapons charges.
Jerry Seper contributed to this report.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide