- The Washington Times - Friday, October 24, 2003

VIRGINIA BEACH — An Alabama state medical examiner testified yesterday that a high-powered rifle was used to shoot two women in an Alabama liquor store robbery attempt, possibly indicating that sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad pulled the trigger.

Medical Examiner Emily Ward told jurors that the bullet that killed Claudine Parker, 52, was likely fired from a rifle because of the “snowstorm effect” it created as bullet fragments broke off in the victim’s body.

“We also saw the same snowstorm effect” in the bullet that wounded Kellie Adams, 24, who survived the Sept. 21, 2002, shooting, Dr. Ward testified. The shooting in Montgomery, Ala., has been linked to Mr. Muhammad and fellow sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo.

Dr. Ward’s testimony bolsters the prosecution’s theory that Mr. Muhammad, not Mr. Malvo, fired the shots.

Her testimony also matches those of witnesses who told jurors on Wednesday they saw Mr. Malvo carrying a handgun — not a rifle — as he robbed the two women in the liquor store. Prosecutors showed that weapon, a small .22-caliber revolver, to jurors yesterday.

The trial resumed with Dr. Ward’s testimony yesterday after a power outage forced court officials to postpone proceedings until repairs were made. Power was restored at the courthouse at midnight Thursday.

Prosecutors continued to piece together their case against Mr. Muhammad yesterday during the fourth day of testimony.

Prosecutors argue the elder suspect was the “instigator and moving spirit” of the sniper killings. They believe Mr. Muhammad used Mr. Malvo as an accomplice in the 13 shootings that killed 10 persons and wounded three in the Washington area last October.

Mr. Muhammad, 42, is on trial for the Oct. 9 fatal shooting of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, at a Manassas gas station. Mr. Malvo, 18, goes on trial Nov. 10 for the Oct. 14 slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47, at a Falls Church Home Depot.

The two also are suspected in nine other shootings, five of them fatal, that occurred nationwide between February 2001 and September last year.

Yesterday, Montgomery, Ala., Police Lt. James Graboys recounted for jurors how he chased, and eventually lost sight of, a man he identified as Mr. Malvo after the liquor store shooting. Lt. Graboys identified Mr. Malvo in a picture in court yesterday.

Lt. Graboys testified that he chased Mr. Malvo in his police cruiser up an alley before cutting off the young suspect. The suspect then ran in the opposite direction, clearing an 8-foot fence.

“He was moving very quickly, very fast, very confident,” Lt. Graboys testified. “He moved like an athlete.”

Lt. Graboys told jurors he stayed behind Mr. Malvo until the young suspect ran past a large trash bin next to the Country’s Barbecue Restaurant. “When I got to that point, I expected to see him running,” he testified.

Instead, Lt. Graboys lost sight of him. “It was almost like he had found an incredible hiding place or gotten into a vehicle,” he told jurors.

Lt. Graboys said Mr. Malvo wasn’t wearing a hat during the chase. Witness James Gray, who also chased the young suspect that night, testified Wednesday that Mr. Malvo wore a white hat.

Lt. Graboys didn’t say whether he looked in the trash bin, but he did tell defense attorney Jonathan Shapiro that he didn’t see or hear of any reports of a blue Chevrolet Caprice at the scene.

Lt. Graboys then described his reaction when he saw images of Mr. Malvo on television after the suspects were arrested while sitting in a blue Chevrolet Caprice at a rest stop near Frederick, Md. “I remember feeling sick in the pit of my stomach,” he told jurors.

Prosecutors said Mr. Malvo discarded the .22-caliber revolver during that chase. The gun was found five weeks later by a real estate agent who was inspecting a nearby apartment building.

Ballistics have tied that revolver to the Sept. 5 shooting of Paul R. LaRuffa in Clinton, Md., and the Sept. 15 shooting of Muhammad Rashid in Brandywine, Md. Mr. LaRuffa was shot outside his restaurant; Mr. Rashid was shot outside a liquor store.

Both men survived the attacks. A laptop computer stolen from Mr. LaRuffa’s car was later found in the suspects’ Caprice.

Prosecutors also introduced evidence from the Sept. 23 fatal shooting of Hong Im Ballenger, 45, a beauty-supply store manager who was shot by a high-powered rifle as she stood next to her sport utility vehicle in Baton Rouge, La.

Mr. Muhammad has been indicted in the Ballenger slaying.

Dr. Michael Cramer, a forensic pathologist in Baton Rouge, described in detail how the bullet shattered Mrs. Ballenger’s jaw after it had entered the back of her head and exited through the lower part of her face.

Mrs. Ballenger’s husband, James, told jurors he drove to the crime scene with his son. He said he told his son to stay in his truck. “I don’t know how bad mommy got hurt,” he said.

Both suspects were arrested one year ago yesterday. Authorities have said the two altered the Caprice and used the trunk as a shooting platform for many shootings.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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