- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

Fairfax County authorities yesterday charged sniper suspects John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo with murder in the Oct. 14 slaying of an FBI analyst near Falls Church.
Mr. Muhammad, 41, and Mr. Malvo, 17, each were charged with two counts of capital murder and one count of use of a firearm in the shooting of Linda Franklin, said Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr.
Mrs. Franklin, 47, was killed instantly when a sniper gunned her down at night as she loaded packages into her car in a crowded Home Depot parking lot near Falls Church.
She was one of the 10 persons killed during a spree of killings in Virginia, Maryland and the District last month.
Whether Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo will go to trial first in Fairfax County, however, is in the hands of Attorney General John Ashcroft, who said yesterday that the Justice Department was "working toward a decision."
Speaking at an unrelated news conference, Mr. Ashcroft told reporters that he expects the suspects will be tried "first in the jurisdiction which provides the best law and the best facts to bring individuals to swift and sure justice with appropriate penalties."
The attorney general added that the appropriate penalty for the "kinds of atrocities that have been committed" would include the death penalty.
Mr. Horan said he hopes Mr. Ashcroft chooses to send the case to Virginia "because of all the jurisdictions involved, this is the one that has a death penalty statute that has stood the test of time."
Asked how strong the evidence against the two is, Mr. Horan told reporters, "It's strong enough to go to trial and to convince a jury of 12 people beyond a reasonable doubt."
The suspects, being held at a super-maximum-security prison in Baltimore, also face federal charges, including weapons violations and extortion, which were filed by Mr. Ashcroft last week.
The pair is accused of shooting 17 persons, killing 12 and wounding five, in a shooting spree that includes victims in Alabama and Louisiana.
With yesterday's charges filed in Fairfax County, the District is the only jurisdiction with a shooting linked to the sniper suspects that has not filed charges.
Mr. Horan said a Fairfax County grand jury indicted Mr. Muhammad early yesterday. Mr. Malvo, who has not been indicted because he is a juvenile, was charged in a petition from the county's juvenile court.
Mr. Horan said the charges against the pair fall under two Virginia statutes: a state law allowing the death penalty for killing two or more persons within three years and a terrorism law passed after the attacks of September 11.
"Under Virginia law, if you commit an act of violence with the intent to intimidate the populace, that's an act of terrorism," Mr. Horan said.
He added that he intends to try Mr. Malvo as an adult and that he will seek the death penalty for both men.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ashcroft said the sniper suspects could be connected to more crimes. Law enforcement authorities nationwide continued yesterday to comb cold-case files for links to the suspects.
Police in Tucson, Ariz., are investigating whether Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo were involved in a fatal shooting in that city March 19. The investigation focuses on the death of Jerry R. Taylor, 60, who was killed while practicing his golf game at a driving range.
Mr. Taylor was shot with a high-caliber rifle, and Tucson police, acting on information from the sniper task force in Maryland, believe Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo were in the city at the time of the slaying, visiting Mr. Muhammad's sister, Odessa Newell.
Mrs. Newell reportedly lived near the driving range where Mr. Taylor was killed. She has since moved to New Orleans and changed her name to Odessa Williams.
Investigators from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, including an ATF dog from Seattle, are assisting Tucson police in their effort to recover evidence at the golf course.
Tucson police Officer Kathy Wending said no shell casings nor bullet fragments were recovered after the shooting, adding that the investigation into Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo's involvement has been based on "a lot of coincidences."
Yesterday ATF investigators continued to assist police in Prince George's County in investigating the possibility that two nonfatal shootings and robberies in Clinton are connected to Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo.
Authorities say ballistics tests on bullet fragments recovered after the two shootings are ongoing and that they are awaiting testing of a .22-caliber handgun that had been in Mr. Muhammad's possession and was recovered after a fatal shooting in Montgomery, Ala.
Authorities said Monday that a Sony laptop computer stolen during one of the Clinton shootings was the same model as a laptop found inside the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo where sleeping in when they were arrested Oct. 24 near Frederick, Md.

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