- The Washington Times - Friday, October 1, 2004

Families of sniper victims gathered yesterday for the dedication of a memorial to the 10 who died, said they were upset by a Fairfax County judge’s ruling that dismissed murder charges against John Allen Muhammad and said they were hopeful that the convicted sniper would stand trial again.

“It hurts, but there are other states that want to try him also,” said Denise Johnson, the wife of the final sniper victim, bus driver Conrad Johnson. “We would love [Muhammad and convicted sniper Lee Boyd Malvo] to be tried in Montgomery County to answer for my husband’s death.”

The ruling cast a shadow over a beautiful fall day that saw the dedication of a permanent memorial to the sniper victims at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton. Dedication of the memorial, a year in the making, was held one day short of two years since the start of the three-week shooting spree that killed 10 persons and injured three others in Maryland, Virginia and the District.

Several of the victims’ family members spoke out after the service about Fairfax County Circuit Judge M. Langhorne Keith’s decision that prosecutors seeking to convict Muhammad for a second shooting violated his right to a speedy trial.

Larry Meyers, the brother of sniper victim Dean Harold Meyers, said that if prosecutors made a procedural error then the judge was correct in throwing the case out. But he said he would like to see justice served for all the victims.

“My brother’s trial was settled and a verdict rendered,” said Larry Meyers. “The other family members for the other victims don’t have that sense of completeness, and I think in fairness to them that multiple prosecutions should occur.”

A Prince William County judge sentenced Muhammad, 43, to death in May for shooting Mr. Meyers, 53, at a gas station in Manassas on Oct. 9, 2002. Yesterday’s ruling does not affect that sentence.

Fairfax County prosecutors hoped to try Muhammad for the Oct. 14, 2002, killing of Linda Franklin, 47, outside the Home Depot store in Falls Church, but Virginia law requires a trial within five months of an arrest unless the defendant waives that right.

A Fairfax County judge in May sentenced Muhammad’s teen companion, Lee Boyd Malvo, 19, to life in prison for Mrs. Franklin’s killing.

The memorial in Wheaton names each of the 10 persons killed in the sniper shootings on the flat face of one upright 8-foot rock, while another 8-foot rock memorializes the attacks in six sentences.

The $50,000 memorial, now called “Reflection Terrace,” was developed from a pre-existing site informally called Stonehenge because of the ring of large bluestone rocks found just off the paved path.

On one low-rising stone overlooking a lake is etched the words, “Linger here and reflect on those lost to violence. Hope for a more peaceful world. Seek a reverence for life among all people.”

Victoria Snider, the brother of sniper victim James L. “Sonny” Buchanan, recalled how she and her brother, a landscaper, used to walk the paths at Brookside Gardens together and she would pick out trees she wanted to plant in her yard.

“It’s befitting that the Reflection Terrace should be in a public setting,” she said. “Everyone in this county, state and nation was affected by Muhammad and Malvo’s crimes.”

Whitney Donahue, the truck driver whose emergency call led police to capture the snipers while they slept at a rest stop just north of Frederick, Md., met many of the victims’ families for the first time and shared handshakes, hugs and kisses. He said the memorial “brings a conclusion” to the tragedy.

Mr. Donahue said he couldn’t believe the news that charges against Muhammad had been dropped.

“I’m just sorry to hear it,” he said.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said it was not important to him that the snipers be brought to trial in Montgomery County, just that they were convicted somewhere else.

“Prosecutors have to decide where we go from here,” he said. “What they’ve explained to me is they want to make sure they’ve got at least one conviction in hand in case the first conviction is overturned and here we are, seven years later, starting all over again.”

Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler agreed, but he said the decision where, or if, the pair would be put on trial next rests with Virginia Gov. Mark Warner.

“The hope would be that all the involved jurisdictions sit down and figure out what makes the most sense,” Mr. Gansler said. “I do think there is a great interest and a need to try Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo again in some other jurisdiction. As we saw today in Virginia, things happen. There are legal nuances in cases.”

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