- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2002

Police have begun an extensive review of unsolved killings and robberies from Washington state to Washington, D.C., to determine whether sniper suspects John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo financed their nomadic lifestyle with a deadly nationwide crime spree, authorities said yesterday.
Mr. Muhammad, 41, and Mr. Malvo, 17, are suspected of killing 10 persons and wounding three over 23 days in Maryland, Virginia and the District.
The two suspects are being held on federal arrest warrants pending trial and were taken into custody early Thursday at a Maryland rest stop where they were sleeping. A .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle found in the car was matched to 11 of 13 shootings through ballistic tests by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
"They're looking into everything, and they've been looking into everything from the beginning," Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler said during an appearance yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"We want to know as much as we possibly can about these two people. We want to be able to link them as much as we can to these crimes and potentially other crimes," he said.
Investigators, police sources said, want to know how Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo apparently survived months of unemployment while financing extensive travel prior to the sniper attacks. They are reported to have been together for five years, during which Mr. Muhammad failed in at least two business ventures.
On several occasions, the sources said, Mr. Muhammad displayed large amounts of cash to friends and acquaintances. They said that in addition to paying for daily expenses and motels, Mr. Muhammad also contacted travel agents for air trips to cities across the country and to the Caribbean.
Investigators, the sources said, believe that the sniper suspect and his teenage companion were involved in several unsolved robberies nationwide.
It was a robbery Sept. 21 in Montgomery, Ala., that led the sniper task force to the pair, after one of the shooters boasted in a telephone call about the crime. Alabama authorities lifted Mr. Malvo's fingerprint from a gun magazine found in a parking lot outside a liquor store where a clerk had been killed by one of two robbers.
On Friday, Alabama prosecutors charged Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo with capital murder in the shooting death of Claudine Lee Parker, 52, who managed the ABC Beverages Store in Montgomery, Ala. They were also charged with shooting and seriously wounding another clerk.
In addition to the fingerprint, authorities said a Montgomery, Ala., police officer who chased the shooter from the liquor store and got within 2 feet of the man before he lost him identified Mr. Muhammad from a photo lineup.
With eight jurisdictions lining up for the first opportunity to prosecute the two suspects, Mr. Gansler announced Friday that his office would seek the death penalty against Mr. Muhammad and that Mr. Malvo would be tried as an adult, although Maryland prosecutors are precluded from seeking the death penalty against a minor.
Virginia Commonwealth Attorney William F. Neely plans to bring charges against Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo today in two shootings in Spotsylvania County, the wounding of a woman outside a Michaels craft store in Fredericksburg Oct. 4 and the killing of Kenneth H. Bridges, 53, of Philadelphia at a Massaponax gas station Oct. 11.
Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, on "Fox News Sunday," said Mr. Malvo could be tried as an adult in that state and subjected to the death penalty. He said Virginia prosecutors could "move quickly" to bring such a case to trial.
The Justice Department, with Attorney General John Ashcroft out of the country, has not publicly weighed in on the debate over who should prosecute the case. But U.S. Attorneys Paul J. McNulty in Virginia, Thomas M. DiBiagio in Maryland and Roscoe C. Howard Jr. in the District met Friday with Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson to decide whether the suspects should face federal charges.
A department official said that under federal law, the two men could face the death penalty under conspiracy charges if prosecutors can prove they were involved in a continuing criminal enterprise. The motive for their actions would have to be the $10 million ransom they are said to have requested in exchange for stopping the shootings.
Mr. Gansler denied concerns yesterday by some Justice Department officials that he reneged on an agreement to wait to file charges until the Justice Department made a decision on a potential federal case.
"There was no agreement. I am not aware of any agreement. I would love to know what they are talking about and with whom such an agreement would have been made," he said. "When two people come into my community, my jurisdiction, we have probable cause to know that they killed six of our citizens; my job is to file charges against them."
Justice Department officials said that the matter is still under discussion, and that it was not yet certain which jurisdiction would get the case first. The Justice Department has custody of the two men.
Meanwhile, Nathaniel O. Osbourne, a friend of Mr. Muhammad's and co-owner of the car believed to have been used in the sniper shootings, agreed yesterday to be moved to federal custody in Maryland. Mr. Osbourne, a 26-year-old Jamaican, waived his right to a detention hearing during an appearance in U.S. District Court in Flint, Mich.
Mr. Osbourne, whose immigration status has not been determined, agreed to the transfer during a court appearance on an arrest warrant naming him as a material witness in the sniper shootings. Authorities do not consider Mr. Osbourne a suspect in the shootings.
In Flint, U.S. Magistrate Wallace Capel denied bail for Mr. Osbourne, who has been held since his arrest by federal agents Saturday night. The arrest warrant, signed Friday by a U.S. magistrate in Greenbelt, was based on a sealed affidavit.
Mr. Osbourne, whose last known address was in Camden, N.J., was believed to have helped Mr. Muhammad buy the blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice. Authorities said a hole had been cut in the trunk from which the snipers may have fired on their unsuspecting victims.
Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo were arrested early Thursday morning as they slept in the car at a rest stop near Frederick, Md. The Chevrolet Caprice, a former police car, was purchased for $250 from Sure Shot Auto Sales in Trenton, N.J., on Sept. 10 and registered the next day.

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