- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2006

1:47 p.m.

The final victim of the October 2002 sniper spree that left 10 people dead described to police how he had been shot before succumbing to his injuries, a police officer testified today at the trial of convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad.

“He told me the shot came from the woods,” said Montgomery County police officer James Cherry, the first officer on the scene where bus driver Conrad Johnson was shot. “He told me he had been shot in the chest.”

Mr. Johnson died in the early morning hours of Oct. 22, 2002, after being shot as he stood in his bus in Aspen Hill before his shift began. Two days later, Muhammad and accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo were arrested at a highway rest stop near Myersville, Md., with a Bushmaster rifle believed to have been used in the shootings in their trunk.

Muhammad is on trial for the deaths of James Martin, Premkumar Walekar, James “Sonny” Buchanan, Sarah Ramos, Lori Lewis Rivera and Mr. Johnson.

Montgomery County prosecutors have detailed each of the 10 killings and three woundings in Maryland, Virginia and Washington in the order they occurred during the three-week spree, as they try to demonstrate a pattern.

Last week, the three people who survived attacks told jurors of the confusion, fear and pain they felt when they realized they had been struck by sniper bullets. Family members of those who died also took the stand, describing their shock when they learned of the killings.

Mr. Johnson’s widow, Denise, testified today that she saw her husband’s bus on television as reports came in of another sniper shooting. She did not know that it was his bus until her mother-in-law called and told her that Conrad had been shot and taken to the hospital. Muhammad, acting as his own lawyer, did not cross-examine her.

Muhammad, 45, already has been convicted and sentenced to death in Virginia for one of the sniper killings. He claims he is innocent, however, and said in his opening statement that he and Malvo were simply in the area to look for Muhammad’s children, who had been taken by his ex-wife.

Muhammad, in his questioning of witnesses, has tried to show that no one saw him fire the fatal shots and that a weapon other than his rifle could have been used. He suggests the memories of witnesses who saw him near shooting scenes may have been influenced by heavy media coverage after his arrest.

Prosecutors are expected to begin their forensics case against Muhammad soon. That likely will include ballistics evidence tying most of the sniper bullets to the Bushmaster. Prosecutors also have said that they have DNA evidence found at several crime scenes and on the gun that matches Muhammad and Malvo.

Malvo is scheduled to go on trial in the fall for the same six killings, but may plead guilty and testify against Muhammad.

The pair also are tied to shootings in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Washington state.

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