- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2003

VIRGINIA BEACH — At least three jurors in the John Allen Muhammad sniper trial wept openly as they listened to a recording of a 911 call from William Franklin moments after his wife, FBI analyst Linda Franklin, had been gunned down Oct. 14 last year.

“My wife’s been shot,” Mr. Franklin, 47, screamed in the emergency call, his voice so frantic and high-pitched that the dispatcher mistook him for a woman.

His uncontrollable sobbing and labored breathing punctuated the three-minute recording, and Mr. Franklin could not give the dispatcher basic information. Prince William Circuit Court Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. denied a defense request not to play the recording and warned those in the courtroom to leave if they did not want to hear the call.

Mr. Franklin, who was present to testify, was the only one to walk out. He returned after it had been played.

Some jurors got red-eyed as they listened to the tape and looked over at Mrs. Franklin’s daughter, Katrina Hannum, who remained in the courtroom after testifying earlier. Mrs. Hannum, in tears, kept her head down.

Mr. Muhammad’s fellow suspect, Lee Boyd Malvo, will be tried next month on murder charges in the shooting death of Mrs. Franklin, who was slain outside a Home Depot in Fairfax County.

In the 911 recording, the dispatcher could be heard trying to calm Mr. Franklin. “Ma’am, you’ve got to calm down, so I can get this information from you,” the dispatcher said. “Your wife is shot?”

Mr. Franklin was heard struggling to catch his breath.

“Where is she shot?” the dispatcher asked.

Mr. Franklin composed himself just enough to blurt out, “She’s shot in the head,” and then broke into sobs. He handed the phone to an unidentified man who gave the dispatcher their location.

Fairfax County police Officer Eduardo Azcavate, who arrived first on the scene, testified that he found Mr. Franklin with his head on his wife’s stomach.

“He was wailing over her abdomen area. He was kneeling on the ground,” said Officer Azcavate, adding that it took him several moments before he could touch Mr. Franklin on the shoulder and escort him away.

A former Marine, Mr. Franklin showed no emotion yesterday during testimony. He met Mrs. Franklin in Okinawa, Japan, and married her nine years ago. The couple was loading a long shelf into the car when Mrs. Franklin was shot. They were buying supplies for their new apartment.

Mrs. Franklin, a breast-cancer survivor and grandmother-to-be, was the 11th person shot and the ninth killed in the Washington area’s three-week sniper rampage last October. The bullet entered the left side of her head and exited the right, destroying the upper right part of her skull and face.

Carolyn Rivercomb, the Virginia medical examiner who conducted the Franklin autopsy, said the bullet from a high-powered rifle caused “extensive massive disruption of her head.” A photo of Mrs. Franklin’s injuries were shown to the jury, despite defense objections, and Mr. Franklin identified his wife in the photo.

The 12th sniper victim, Jeffrey Hopper of Melbourne, Fla., survived being shot in the abdomen in Ashland, Va., on Oct. 19. He was walking out of a Ponderosa restaurant and holding hands with his wife, on their way home from Pennsylvania after visiting family.

“We heard a loud, just enormous explosion, just all-encompassing. We both were shocked, and I felt myself jerk, like it was the shock wave of an explosion or something,” Mr. Hopper testified yesterday.

He said he felt “an uncomfortable feeling, like an abnormal stomachache.” He told his wife, Stephanie, that he loved her. “And then we prayed together.”

The bullet damaged many of Mr. Hopper’s internal organs, and he remained in the hospital for 29 days, fighting infection. He underwent five emergency surgeries and a sixth last month to repair his abdominal muscles.

Mr. Hopper, 38, who was the chief information officer at a brokerage company and recently had started an insurance marketing group, now is looking for paid work.

Mr. Muhammad, 42, is implicated in the 13 Washington-area shootings, 10 of which were fatal. He and Mr. Malvo, 18, are linked to nine other shootings in five other states.

The elder suspect is charged in the Oct. 9, 2002, shooting death of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, at a Manassas gas station. Prosecutors have brought one count of capital murder against him under the state’s new antiterrorism statute, and one other count for killing more than one person in less than three years.

Prosecutors have said Mr. Muhammad trained the teenager and directed most of the shootings, and the younger suspect reportedly has confessed to pulling the trigger in Mrs. Franklin’s killing.

However, Fairfax County police Officer Marta Goodwin testified yesterday that she saw Mr. Malvo driving a blue Chevrolet Caprice on Interstate 66 about 25 minutes after the shooting.

“I almost rolled down my window to say to him, ‘Can you believe this?’” she said, referring to the massive backups caused by police blockades. Officer Goodwin said she could not see anyone else in the car.

The suspects were arrested last year in a blue Chevrolet Caprice at a rest stop on Interstate 70 in Frederick County, Md.

Yesterday, prosecutors called witnesses who testified about the sniper’s attempts to establish a dialogue with police. Authorities have said the suspects wanted to extort $10 million from the federal government.

The first communication was found on a tarot card at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie on Oct. 7, 2002, when 13-year old Iran Brown was shot and wounded. Prince George’s County Police crime-scene investigator Charles Nelson said he found the card in the wood line next to the school, about 25 feet away from a shell casing and an empty writing pen barrel. The DNA on the pen has been linked to Mr. Muhammad.

The card, Mr. Nelson said, read, “For you Mr. Police. Code: Call me God. Do Not release to the Press.”

Three persons testified about calls they received where the snipers used that code, “Call me God.” A call dispatcher in Rockville said she was too overwhelmed by the volume of calls she was receiving to pay any attention to the mysterious voice who called her on Oct. 15, 2002. She tried to direct the caller to the Sniper Task Force, but the caller hung up.

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