- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 20, 2004

The two tipsters who played the most significant roles in the capture of convicted Washington-area snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were rewarded yesterday by Montgomery County officials.

The men, who helped police end the October 2002 shootings that left 10 dead and three wounded, will share a $500,000 reward.

Robert Holmes of Tacoma, Wash., will get $350,000 for first notifying authorities that his friend, John Allen Muhammad, might be the shooter. Whitney Donahue of Greencastle, Pa., who called authorities when he saw Muhammad’s vehicle at a Frederick County, Md., rest stop in October 2002, will receive $150,000.

“I’m proud that I was able to help,” Mr. Donahue said yesterday at a news conference. Mr. Holmes was unable to come to Maryland in time to attend.

Mr. Donahue spotted the Chevrolet Caprice used by Muhammad, 43, and Malvo, 19, in the shootings at a highway rest area in Myersville, Md., on Oct. 24, 2002.

Mr. Donahue, a refrigerator repairman, said he understood the terrifying impact the shootings had on the region, though he lived in Pennsylvania.

“I work in the area,” he said. Mr. Donahue said his vehicle — a white van — also kept him cognizant of the situation, because authorities initially thought the snipers were using a white van. “So I was quite aware of what was going on here.”

Mr. Donahue also said he does not consider himself a hero and was pleased just to play a part in stopping the shootings.

“I just did what anyone else would have done,” he said. “I’d consider myself a good citizen, but not a hero. The only thing I was concerned with was getting [Muhammad and Malvo] off the streets.”

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said Mr. Holmes provided the key information that enabled authorities to know for whom they were looking. He said Mr. Donahue’s call made it possible for authorities to catch the snipers.

“In the worst of times, it was uplifting to see the response of people,” Mr. Duncan said.

Victoria Snider, whose brother James L. “Sonny” Buchanan was killed in the sniper attacks, attended yesterday’s news conference.

She expressed her gratitude to Mr. Donahue and said she was “relieved” Muhammad and Malvo were caught. Mr. Buchanan, 39, of Blacksburg, Va., was killed Oct. 3, 2002, on Rockville Pike.

Felons Muhammad and Malvo are suspects in nine other earlier shootings — five of them fatal — in five states.

Muhammad was sentenced to death March 10 by a Prince William County judge for the Oct. 9, 2002, fatal shooting of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, at a Manassas gas station.

Malvo received a life sentence without parole for the Oct. 14, 2002, fatal shootiing of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47, outside a Home Depot in the Seven Corners area of Fairfax.

Mr. Holmes, who befriended Muhammad at Fort Lewis, Wash., while they were in the Army, testified against Muhammad in November. Mr. Holmes, an auto mechanic, contacted authorities during the 2002 shootings about Muhammad’s possible involvement after becoming wary of Muhammad’s actions and relationship with Malvo.

Mr. Holmes declined to comment when contacted by the Associated Press yesterday.

“Remember that [Muhammad] was a friend of his,” Montgomery County police Chief John Thomas Manger said at the news conference. Mr. Holmes is appreciative of the reward, but not celebratory, Mr. Manger said. “He takes no joy in this.”

Mr. Duncan made the decision about the reward money Friday after receiving a recommendation from a group of law-enforcement officials in Montgomery County and Northern Virginia. Mr. Donahue and Mr. Holmes were selected from among those who submitted more than 60,000 tips.

Montgomery County officials said the recipients were notified Friday, and they hope to distribute the money to them as early as tomorrow.

The reward fund was established within a week of the start of the shootings, using $50,000 in county funds. Contributions from $1 to $100,000 were donated by at least 930 persons, and by organizations, governments and businesses in 33 states and three countries.

In November 2002, Mr. Duncan said the recovering victims and the families of those killed “need help now” and presented a check for $115,945.77 to the United Way for that purpose. The money was the excess of the $500,000 contributed for rewards.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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