- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Jurors in sniper John Allen Muhammad’s second trial yesterday saw the Chevrolet Caprice that authorities think was used as cover to fire the fatal shots during a series of shootings in October 2002.

The beaten-up former police car was parked in a loading dock outside Montgomery County Circuit Court for the jury hearing the six murder counts against Muhammad.

The car is key to the prosecution’s case against Muhammad — the Bushmaster rifle used in the killings was in the Caprice when he and Lee Boyd Malvo were arrested Oct. 24, 2002. A hole was bored in the trunk, for a rifle barrel.

Investigators also found two-way radios, a scrap of paper with the sniper task force tip-line phone number and paper with a list of schools in the Baltimore area.

More than a dozen items were shown to jurors yesterday.

Muhammad, who is acting as his own attorney, began an exhaustive and testy questioning of the Montgomery County forensics investigator who did an inventory of the items found in the car.

He asked David McGill whether the officer had found $11,000 in cash, any $50 bills or airplane tickets. Officer McGill said no. He also questioned whether materials used for notes from the shooting scenes — pink paper, thumb tacks, a tarot card — were in the Caprice.

At one point, frustrated by Officer McGill’s confusion about the questions, Muhammad leaned in close to the microphone at the defense table.

“Sir, did you ever find any Halloween Ziploc bags in that vehicle?” he blurted out, referring to a bag used to hold a note at a shooting in Ashland, Va.

Circuit Judge James Ryan told Muhammad to stop.

Investigators tore apart much of the Caprice’s interior in their search for evidence. The car that jurors saw had much of its flooring and door panels ripped off. The hubcabs also had been removed. And the back seat, which prosecutors said could be folded down so someone could lie in the trunk and fire the gun through the hole, was dislodged.

Earlier yesterday, Muhammad tried to question Allan Stratos, an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, about sniper sprees in Ohio and West Virginia, in an apparent attempt to suggest to jurors that the true sniper moved on to more shootings.

The judge cut off those questions after prosecutors objected.

In late 2003 and early 2004, a sniper killed one person in a series of random highway shootings in the area of Columbus, Ohio. Charles McCoy Jr., arrested in March 2004, was sentenced to 27 years in prison after pleading guilty.

No arrests have been made in three sniper-shooting deaths near Charleston, W.Va., in 2003.

Prosecutors pointed out that none of the shootings in those states were linked to Muhammad’s Bushmaster rifle.

“Are you aware of any more sniper shootings that occurred with this rifle?” Assistant State’s Attorney Vivek Chopra asked Mr. Stratos after Muhammad was finished.

Mr. Stratos said no.

Muhammad already has been convicted and sentenced to death in Virginia for his one of the killings in the series of random shootings in the D.C. area that left 10 dead and three wounded. His current trialcovers the six killings in Montgomery County.

Malvo is serving a life term for another Virginia sniper killing and is charged with the same six Maryland murders, but likely will plead guilty and testify against Muhammad.

The pair also are suspected of earlier shootings in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland and Washington state.

Muhammad is charged with six counts of first-degree murder in the deaths in Montgomery County of James D. Martin, Premkumar A. Walekar, James L. “Sonny” Buchanan, Sarah Ramos, Lori-Ann Lewis Rivera and Conrad E. Johnson.

Associated Press writer Matthew Barakat contributed to this report.

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