- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2003

VIRGINIA BEACH — A rough draft of a ransom note demanding millions of dollars from the federal government was recovered from a laptop computer found inside the car in which sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad was sleeping when he was arrested last fall, a federal agent testified yesterday.

FBI Agent John Hair, a computer-crimes specialist, told jurors that the note contained the “Call me God” code the sniper had established during the string of random shootings in the Washington area. The note also asked authorities for $5 million, instead of the $10 million prosecutors say Mr. Muhammad eventually demanded.

“We are offering you a way out. These are our terms,” the note read. “You will prepare 5 million dollars and place it in this account ….” The note was written Oct. 10, 2002, hours before the sniper fatally shot Kenneth Harold Bridges, 53, outside a gas station near Fredericksburg, Va., Mr. Hair testified.

Police found another note written by the sniper on Oct. 19, in the woods near the Ponderosa Steakhouse in Ashland, Va., where the sniper shot and wounded Jeffrey Hopper, 37, of Melbourne, Fla. That note demanded $10 million.

Mr. Hair also said the laptop contained a series of maps, which placed a skull and crossbones logo near several of the sniper shooting sites. A caption next to the symbol marking the slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin in Falls Church included the words “Good one.”

Mr. Hair’s description of the notes and laptop contents came during the 16th day of testimony in Mr. Muhammad’s trial.

Mr. Muhammad, 42, and Lee Boyd Malvo, 18, have been linked to shootings that left 10 persons dead and three wounded in the Washington area in October 2002. They also have been linked to nine other shootings in five states.

Mr. Muhammad is charged in the Oct. 9 fatal shooting of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, at a Manassas gas station. Mr. Malvo goes on trial Monday in the Oct. 14 fatal shooting of Mrs. Franklin, 47, at a Falls Church Home Depot.

Yesterday, prosecutors presented a host of forensic and scientific experts who testified about fingerprint and DNA evidence, as well as information about electronic items.

FBI expert Brendan Shea told jurors that Mr. Muhammad’s DNA was linked conclusively to a rifle sight found in the Caprice. The sight was detached from the rifle when it was found, Mr. Shea said. He would not say with certainty that DNA collected from the rifle itself was Mr. Muhammad’s but testified there was a “high likelihood” that it was.

Mr. Shea said the chance that the DNA belonged to a black man other than Mr. Muhammad was one in 46 billion. The FBI standard for a conclusive DNA match is one in 280 billion.

Mr. Malvo’s DNA was found on the rifle in several locations to the exclusion of anyone else, Mr. Shea testified. Mr. Malvo’s fingerprints also were found on the rifle, but the prints were not in a position consistent with someone firing the weapon, said Charles Colman, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives fingerprint expert who testified earlier yesterday.

Mr. Colman told jurors he found prints from Mr. Malvo’s left ring finger and palm on the rifle, but found none of Mr. Muhammad’s prints. Mr. Malvo’s prints were on the weapon in such a manner that he would have been holding it upside down at the time, Mr. Colman said.

“It wasn’t any type of firing position,” he told jurors.

It has long been known that only Mr. Malvo’s prints were found on the weapon, but there had been no previous public discussion about the position of the prints.

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