- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

MANASSAS — Sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad may have been seeking to harm his ex-wife during last year’s sniper spree, prosecutors argued yesterday, but a judge ruled they can’t make that argument at trial because they have no supporting evidence.

Prosecutor Richard Conway said one of Mr. Muhammad’s several motives for last year’s sniper spree may have been to harm Mildred Muhammad, who moved to Prince George’s County with the couple’s children at the end of a bitter custody dispute.

“The evidence will show that Mr. Muhammad became obsessed with finding her. Once he pinpointed her location [in Clinton] … shortly thereafter, shootings occurred in the area where Mildred Muhammad had relocated,” Mr. Conway said.

But defense attorneys said prosecutors have no evidence to support that motive. Peter Greenspun said neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys have been able to locate Mrs. Muhammad, an assertion that prosecutors did not dispute.



Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. upheld a request from defense attorneys to bar any trial testimony that Mr. Muhammad had either kidnapped the couple’s children or made any threats against his ex-wife. Judge Millette did say, however, that he would revisit the issue if prosecutors can come up with direct evidence to support the motive.

It is not exactly clear how the sniper shootings were to have affected Mrs. Muhammad. Mr. Greenspun suggested that prosecutors were pursuing an unsubstantiated theory that she would have been a victim in a series of supposedly random shootings, and that Mr. Muhammad could have reclaimed custody of his children.

Also yesterday, three witnesses who placed sniper suspect Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo in the vicinity of two of last year’s sniper shootings will be allowed to testify at Mr. Muhammad’s upcoming trial, Judge Millette ruled yesterday.

One witness said he saw Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo in a Chevy Caprice outside Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie just one hour before the Oct. 7 shooting of 13-year-old Iran Brown, who survived. The witness said that the car was stopped at a green light and facing oncoming traffic, and that Mr. Malvo climbed from the front into the back seat.

Two other witnesses, employees at a Silver Spring YMCA, said they saw the two at the facility numerous times from August to October. Both witnesses said they saw Mr. Muhammad at the YMCA on Oct. 22, the day of the final sniper shooting, in which bus driver Conrad Johnson was fatally shot in Aspen Hill.

“Mr. Muhammad was in the locker room in the [YMCA] sitting on a bench with his head in his hands. Apparently he had just come out of the sauna. I asked him if he was OK,” said the witness, M. Stephen Kane, who was concerned that extended time in the sauna had made Mr. Muhammad ill. “He said nothing was the matter, that everything was OK.”

They also questioned the procedure used for the YMCA employees’ identification. Both witnesses were in the same room at the time each made an identification, though both testified they couldn’t see what ID the other had made.

Mr. Malvo, 18, and Mr. Muhammad, 42, have been charged with 13 shootings including 10 deaths over a three-week span in October in Virginia, Maryland the District.

Mr. Muhammad goes on trial Oct. 14 in Virginia Beach in the fatal shooting of Dean Harold Meyers outside a Manassas-area gas station.

Mr. Malvo goes on trial Nov. 10 in Chesapeake, Va., in the fatal shooting of Linda Franklin in the parking lot of the Falls Church Home Depot.

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