- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Convicted snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo will be tried together in Montgomery County, where their three-week shooting spree began and ended in October 2002.

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner announced yesterday that he has agreed with Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to transfer the two men to Maryland to stand trial on six counts of murder. Ten were killed and three wounded in the Washington-area shootings.

“Now that Virginia’s prosecution … has concluded, it is important that families of the victims of the sniper incidents in other jurisdictions have an opportunity to seek justice,” Mr. Warner said.

Muhammad is on death row at Sussex State Prison in Sussex County, Va., and Malvo is serving a life sentence at Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, Va.

A spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections declined to say when the transfer will take place, but Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler said he expected the transfer to occur in the next few weeks.

Once the snipers are in Maryland, Mr. Gansler will have 30 days to indict the pair and 180 days to complete the trial. If the two are found guilty in Montgomery County, a judge will issue a formal sentence and then Muhammad and Malvo must be shipped back to Virginia under the terms of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers, Mr. Gansler said.

Mr. Ehrlich said he wanted to bring Muhammad and Malvo to Maryland because of the “deep personal interest of the families of Maryland victims.”

A spokesman for the Republican governor said the decision to bring the snipers to Montgomery County also was due to the persistent lobbying by Mr. Gansler.

Mr. Gansler has “pushed” and “opined” in conversations, including recently, “that Montgomery County is an appropriate place to prosecute them,” spokesman Henry Fawell said. “The governor was more than willing to assist.”

Mr. Gansler said, “There are six people who have not had their day in court. There is a community that has not had their day in court. … If somebody is accused of killing people in our jurisdiction, we try them.”

For the families of the victims killed during the sniper spree in Montgomery County, yesterday’s news was more bitter than sweet.

“One way I feel like I want to, because it will bring peace, but this is getting too long, because it’s three years now, and it’s bringing back all these memories. It’s very painful,” said Margaret Walekar, whose husband Premkumar, 54, was killed while pumping gas in Aspen Hill.

Mr. Walekar was the second person shot the morning of Oct. 3, 2002, when four random persons were killed within three hours. James L. “Sonny” Buchanan, 39, was the first person shot that morning, at 7:41 a.m., while mowing grass at a White Flint car dealership.

Vickie Snider, Mr. Buchanan’s sister, said, “It affected this area, so in that respect, I’m glad that of all the places it could go it went here. On the other hand, I have mixed feelings. It’s hard to go through the trials.”

Mrs. Snider attended every day of Muhammad’s trial in Virginia Beach in 2003, and much of Malvo’s in Chesapeake. She said she will attend the Montgomery County trial when she can. Mrs. Walekar said the same.

Mrs. Snider started a charity called Sonny’s Kids in her brother’s memory. White Flint Mall will dedicate a garden to Mr. Buchanan at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow at the spot on Huff Court where he was shot.

Muhammad, now 44, and Malvo, now 20, were arrested Oct. 24, 2002, in Frederick County, Md., two days after the last victim, bus driver Conrad E. Johnson, 35, was killed in Aspen Hill.

Malvo’s defense argued that Muhammad brainwashed the young man, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, and that since being separated from the elder man, he has come out from Muhammad’s influence.

Malvo was tried for capital murder, but a Chesapeake jury spared him from a death penalty and sentenced him to life in prison without parole during his 2003 trial for the Oct. 14, 2002, slaying of Linda Franklin, 47, in Falls Church. The Supreme Court has since struck down the death penalty for juveniles.

Muhammad was sentenced to death in Virginia Beach in 2003 for killing Dean Harold Meyers in Manassas on Oct. 9, 2002.

Other states, including Louisiana and Alabama, also have sought custody of the pair.

• Gary Emerling contributed to this report.

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