December 31, 2002 - Lawyers for sniper suspect John Lee Malvo scored a legal victory when Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Kimberly Daniel ruled that prosecutors had to turn over statements the teenager may have made to police during a seven-hour interrogation session about two Virginia shootings.
Prosecutors criticized the judge's decision, arguing they weren't required under the law to turn over statements before a preliminary hearing unless the defense had a compelling reason to examine them early in the process. "Under the rules they're not entitled what they were given today," Fairfax County prosecutor Robert Horan said. But the judge said she thought the defense had a compelling interest to be given the information early: "I believe there is good cause because of the complexity and severity of this case." The defense also cited news reports that investigators had recorded statements made by Malvo. "To deny us access to the recordings is a denial of due process," said lead defense attorney Michael Arif. "Everyone in the free world seems to have Malvo's statements except the defense."
December 23, 2002 - Prosecutor Robert Horan Jr. of the Fairfax County Commonwealth denied the New York Times report that said 17-year-old sniper suspect John Lee Malvo was responsible for most of the DC-area sniper shootings. "I don't think that anybody in the investigation is responsible for the leak, because so much of it was dead wrong," said Horan, who is overseeing the case against Malvo. According to the attorney, 60% of the information leaked in the article was wrong.
December 22, 2002 - According to a published report, evidence in the Washington-area sniper shootings case points to teenager John Lee Malvo as the triggerman in most if not all of the shootings. "There is not much pointing to Muhammad, and that is going to make it really hard to show that he was the triggerman," one senior law enforcement official involved in the case told The New York Times. "There are other ways to attempt to obtain a death sentence, but this lack of evidence has been one of the most perplexing things about the case."
The evidence mentioned against Malvo includes: His own admissions to the slayings of Linda Franklin in Falls Church on Oct. 14 and Dean Harold Meyers in Manassas on Oct. 9, and to one in Maryland. Hair linked by DNA to Malvo in the trunk of the car police believe was used as a sniper's nest. Malvo's fingerprints found on paper near where investigators believe the shot was fired that wounded a middle school student in Bowie, Md., on Oct. 7. Saliva found on a grape stem on a hill where investigators believe the shot was fired that killed bus driver Conrad Johnson in Aspen Hill on Oct. 22.
December 19, 2002 - A judge has imposed a gag order prohibiting Fairfax County police from publicly disclosing their investigation into sniper suspects John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo. The order, dated December 11 from Circuit Judge R. Terrence Ney, bans police from disclosing any "information which may jeopardize the successful conclusion of the investigation." Muhammad's lawyers sought the injunction against Fairfax County police and the FBI following a report last month in The Washington Post saying that Malvo, 17, had confessed to being the triggerman in some of the sniper sniper shootings.
December 13, 2002 - The mother of teenage sniper suspect John Lee Malvo has been deported to Jamaica. A Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that Una James, 38, had left Seattle and was en route to Jamaica, her home country.
In related news, a judge barred television cameras from Muhammad's trial scheduled to begin October 14. Muhammad will first be tried for the shooting of death Dean Meyers outside a gas station in Manassas, Virginia. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for January 14 in Fairfax County, Virginia, to determine whether Malvo will be tried as an adult and face the death penalty for the murder of FBI analyst Linda Franklin.
October 25, 2002 - Authorities in Alabama have linked Washington-area sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad and his teenage sidekick, John Lee Malvo, to a fatal shooting outside a liquor store on September 21. Muhammad, 41, and Malvo are accused of killing a female clerk outside the store as it closed and wounding another woman. Dwight Johnson, an officer who heard gunshots that night, chased a man fleeing the liquor store shootings, and helped provide a composite sketch of the suspect. Muhammad is believed to be the man who was chased by Johnson.
The DC-area sniper case was cracked after one of the suspects called police and mentioned that they were responsible for the Alabama robbery-murder. Investigators in Montgomery were able to match a fingerprint found on a weapons magazine in a parking lot outside the liquor store to Malvo's immigration records. After connecting Malvo to the Montgomery killing, authorities traced him to a school in Bellingham, Washington, then to a home in Tacoma where he lived with Muhammad. Police then linked the sniper team to Mohammad's blue Caprice which was registered in New Jersey. That night police broadcast a description of the suspects and the vehicle that lead to a trucker calling police and saying he had spotted them in a Maryland rest stop.
October 25, 2002 - Police said they intend to seek the death penalty for sniper suspect John Muhammad. Presently, the suspect, 42-year-old John Muhammad, has been charged with possessing a firearm after an incident involving his former wife in Washington state last year. Pending are several counts of murder charges which are expected to be filed by different jurisdictions around the DC area.
Muhammad -- who years before had won a badge for expert marksmanship in Fort Lewis, Tacoma -- was brought into court in handcuffs and spoke only when the magistrate asked if he understood the proceedings. "I know where I'm at and I know what I'm doing," he said. Malvo, who claims Muhammad is his stepfather, appeared in a closed juvenile court and was ordered to be held in custody as a material witness.
Muhammad, who was stationed at Fort Lewis in the 1980s and served in the Gulf War, had four children by two marriages that ended in divorce. Both involved bitter custody battles and at least one accusation that he abducted the children. Court records showed no felony record for him in Washington state.
Muhammad was outgoing and "had a good sense of humor. He wasn't a quiet type. He liked to talk. He liked to mingle with people," Carol Williams, his first wife and the mother of his oldest son. She said Muhammad converted to Islam after divorcing her 17 years ago, about the time he joined the Army.
"After he changed his religion, he called and told me what not to feed my child," she said. "I told him as long as he (their son) lived with me, it was up to me." Williams said that on one occasion, when their son was in middle school and visited Muhammad in Tacoma, she had to fight a legal battle for the boy's
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that Muhammad and Malvo stayed at a homeless shelter in Bellingham, where Mayor Robert Asmundson said the teen had minor run-ins with police but never was charged with a crime.
return. His second wife, Mildred Green, with whom he had three children, called Williams a couple of years ago to tell her Muhammad had abducted their children and to ask for help in getting them back.
In the late 1990s, Muhammad provided money to start a karate school, former business partner Felix Strozier told The Associated Press. Muhammad promised to bring students from the local Muslim community, but not enough students came, and the school closed in 1998 and Strozier and Muhammad parted on less-than-friendly terms.
October 24, 2002 - Bringing the sniper killings in the Washington DC area to a conclusion, John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, were arrested while sleeping in a car at a Maryland rest stop. The suspects were found asleep in a blue Chevrolet Caprice that had a hidden compartment for a rifle and the trunk had been modified to be a sniper's nest.
Muhammad and Malvo had rebuilt the 12-year-old Chevrolet into a rolling sniper's nest by removing the back seats so one man could lie flat with a telescopic rifle and pick off victims. They also had two holes, each the size of the bottom of a Coke can, drilled in the boot - one for the telescopic sight of the .223 rifle and the other for the muzzle. Inside, the gun was mounted on a tripod to keep it stable.
Throughout the manhunt, police announced they were looking for a white van or a truck. Only once before was a four-door Caprice mentioned in the sniper case. On October 12, the day investigators released a wanted poster of a white truck, Washington, D.C., police chief Charles H. Ramsey said investigators were also looking for a Chevrolet Caprice seen leaving the scene of the fatal shooting of 72-year-old Pascal Charlot.
On 2 October, officers from Montgomery County, twice pulled over the blue four-door car for a " traffic violation" - only to let it go. The next day -- when four people were killed by the sniper in Montgomery County and one in Washington DC -- police in the nation's capital again stopped the car but did not have enough cause to arrest Muhammad or search the vehicle. On October 8 -- a day after a 13-year-old boy in Bowie was wounded as he arrived at school -- police approached the Caprice on a Baltimore street and found Muhammad sleeping in the vehicleand told him to move on.
Police said a tree stump was taken from the Tacoma, Washington, home where Muhammad and Malvo once lived. Sources said the stump might contain bullets or bullet fragments to compare to the .223-caliber bullets used in the sniper attacks. Investigators also reportedly combed through Malvo's Bellingham High School student records, seeking samples of his handwriting.
October 23, 2002 - Members of the sniper task force converged on a freeway rest stop in Maryland and arrested John Allen Muhammad, a 42-year-old Gulf War veteran, and John Lee Malvo, his 17-year-old junenile companion. Police said the two were considered suspects in the shootings that have killed 10 and wounded three in the Washington area. The rest area is along a seven-mile stretch of Interstate 70 near Myersville, Maryland, that had been shut down in a dragnet launched just a few hours earlier by Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, the head of the sniper task force.
October 23, 2002 - An angry letter found tacked to a tree behind a restaurant where the sniper wounded a man last weekend complained of six failed attempts to reach police, and threatened more killings -- of children in particular -- if millions of dollars were not deposited in a bank account within two days, according to law enforcement sources.
The letter listed half a dozen calls that had been "ignored" by operators answering phones at the command center in Rockville, the Montgomery County police station and the FBI. It even named some of the people who had taken his calls and hung up. That was "incompetent," the letter stated. "Five people had to die" because of it, the letter said. The letter warned investigators that if they were more concerned with "stopping" the killings than making an arrest, they should follow the orders precisely, or else there would be "body bags." And it ended with an even more ominous postscript, officials said: "Your children are not safe anywhere at any time."
The discovery of the letter, which police are convinced was written by the sniper who may have killed his 10th victim yesterday, was the impetus for an extraordinary series of veiled public messages to the killer delivered by Montgomery Police Chief Charles A. Moose. At 7:10 p.m., Moose made the first of his five public appeals to the attacker: "To the person who left us a message at the Ponderosa last night, you gave us a telephone number. We do want to talk to you. Call us at the number you provided."
Monday morning, a person police believe to be the sniper called again, according to sources. One official described the caller as "extremely angry." The caller, he said, used such phrases as "Just shut up and listen," or "Hear me out," or "I am God," or "I'm in charge." Police traced the call to telephones in the vicinity of an Exxon station in suburban Richmond.
Police dispatched a SWAT team to secretly watch the area. By about 8:30 a.m., an undocumented worker pulled a white minivan up to the phone and started making calls. Another man, also a laborer in this country illegally, was waiting nearby. Police grabbed both men but soon found they were c0ompletely unrelated to the case.
October 21, 2002 -
Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, head of the task force investigating the Washington-area sniper, attempted to deliver messages to the person who left a message and a phone number at the scene of the latest shooting, a Ponderosa restaurant outside Richmond. His statements: In a news conference Sunday: "To the person who left us a message at the Ponderosa last night. You gave us a telephone number. We do want to talk to you. Call us at the number you provided. Thank you." In a news conference Monday morning: "The message that needs to be delivered is that we are going to respond to a message that we have received. We are preparing our response at this time." In a news conference Monday afternoon: "The person you called could not hear everything you said. The audio was unclear and we want to get it right. Call us back so that we can clearly understand."
October 21, 2002 - Police trying to establish contact with the Washington-area sniper said that a phone call had come in but was too muddled for authorities to understand. They pleaded with the person to call back. "The person you called could not hear everything you said. The audio was unclear and we want to get it right. Call us back so that we can clearly understand," Montgomery County, Md., Police Chief Charles Moose said. During an earlier news conference, Moose focused on establishing a dialogue with the unidentified person who left a message and phone number near a Virginia steakhouse where the latest victim was shot.
In related news, bail was denied for Matthew M. Dowdy, who was accused of lying to police by describing a cream-colored van with a burned-out taillight at the scene of last week's shooting in Falls Church.
In other developments, France has alerted Interpol about a French army deserter who is known as a marksman and is missing in North America. A Defense Ministry spokesman said there was speculation of a link to the sniper investigation.
October 20, 2002 - A man was shot and wounded in a steakhouse parking lot night while walking to his car with his wife. Authorities are treating the case as if it were linked to thew Washington-area sniper who has killed nine people. If the shooting turns out to be related, it would be the first time the sniper attacked on a weekend; it also would break the longest lull in between shootings as the break in the spree had stretched into a fifth day. It would be the 12th sniper shooting since they began October 2.
The investigation into the Washington-area sniper spree suffered a setback after a witness account was discredited. "I would totally get away from all of the statements that were supposedly emanating from witnesses in the Fairfax County case," Fairfax County Police Lt. Amy Lubas said. The witness had told police he saw the gunman shoulder a weapon just before shooting and then saw the shooter flee in a cream-colored van. The man's description of a Chevrolet Astro van with a roof rack with its left taillight burned out was broadcast to law enforcement across the region.
A source close to the sniper investigation told CNN that the witness who had claimed to have seen the shooting of the FBI worker in the parking lot of Home Depot was actually in the store at the time it occurred. Source said investigators questioned the witness extensively, leading toi his confession of making up the story. Authorities said they expect charges to be brought against the man.
October 16, 2002 - The Washington-area sniper's latest slaying has yielded the most detailed clues yet in the search for the elusive killer: information about license plates and the description of a man in a white van seen fleeing the attack. In another development, the Pentagon has agreed to provide aerial surveillance in the hunt for a sniper who has terrorized the Washington, D.C., suburbs for the past two weeks, killing nine and wounding two.
Law enforcement sources told The Associated Press there was no indication the sniper targeted Franklin, 47, because of her job with the FBI's Cyber-Crimes Division, created last year to focus on computer crimes as well as intellectual property cases.
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said investigators are hesitant to rule out the possibility that the slayings are the work of a terrorist because there is no hard evidence about motive.
October 15, 2002 - An FBI agent is the latest victim of the Washington-area sniper. Linda Franklin, 47, of Arlington was shot in the head as she and her husband loaded packages into their car outside a Home Depot at the Seven Corners Shopping Center. FBI spokesman Barry Maddox said Franklin worked at FBI headquarters. A senior law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there were no indications that she was targeted because of her job. Maddox added that she was not a part of the task force investigating the sniper shootings.
For the first time, witnesses were able to give information about license plates on vehicles seen leaving the scene, he said. "There was some additional information that we were able to get from last night's case and I am confident that that information is going to lead us to an arrest in the case," Manger said at a morning briefing. Manger declined to discuss which state the license plates were from or answer questions about whether police had a description of the shooter. He said only that several people contacted police after the shooting and investigators were still interviewing them. "We have been receiving quite a bit of information from witnesses," Manger said. "Information is always the key in solving cases like this." Police closed highways around Falls Church, about 10 miles west of the nation's capital, after the shooting and Manger said police were on the lookout for a light-colored
Chevrolet Astro van with a burned-out left rear tail light and a chrome ladder on its roof. The highways were reopened in time for morning rush hour and no arrests were reported.
While giving few details of the manhunt, investigators have logged some consistencies: the killer favors suburban gas stations; takes down each victim with a single bullet; doesn't kill on weekends; and, judging from a fortunetelling tarot card left at one of the shootings, appears to
enjoy taunting police. The card read: "Dear Policeman, I am God."
Vancouver profiler hunts sniper Says killer likely from northern Washington D.C. area. Rossmo said the Washington killings present a unique situation. Mr. Rossmo was the first police officer in Canada to receive a doctorate in criminology after he developed his geographic profiling system at Simon Fraser.
"This is not a sexual murderer or someone shooting up a post office or a school. There doesn't seem to be any similarity in the victimology, but geographically we think the crimes are not random. We think there's a pattern there."
In 1995, he helped set up the world's first geographic profiling unit within the Vancouver Police Department, and in 1998 was the first member of the department to suggest a serial killer might be involved in the disappearance of sex-trade workers from the downtown eastside. The department ignored his advice, and in 2000, announced that it did not intend to renew his contract. That prompted him to sue for wrongful dismissal.
Police have begun to use a geographic profile submitted by investigators that uses crime locations to determine where the killer feels comfortable traveling and may live. Geographic profiling is a fairly new investigative tool, used first in 1990 in Canada, said Kim Rossmo, who compiled the latest profile and is director of research for the Police Foundation, a nonprofit research organization. In 2000, Rossmo was one of the first investigators to declare that a serial killer was at work in Vancouver. At the time other Vancouver police officials dismissed his claim. Presently, Willie Pickton is on trial for the murder of at least 15 women in Vancouver's Eastside. The purpose of the tool is to determine "if there is a pattern there," Rossmo said. "If we can understand the pattern, we can decode it."
October 7, 2002 - The Washington-area sniper struck again, shooting and critically wounding a 13-year-old boy as his aunt dropped him off at school. Ballistics tests linked the boy's shooting to the slayings of six people in Maryland and Washington last week, said Joe Riehl, an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The child was shot once in the chest before the start of classes at Benjamin Tasker Middle School and was in critical but stable condition at Children's Hospital in Washington.
"All of our victims have been innocent and defenseless, but now we're stepping over the line," Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose said, tears streaming down his face. "Shooting a kid -- it's getting to be really, really personal now."
The five slain victims were gunned down in broad daylight in public places: two at gas stations, one outside a grocery, another outside a post office and the fifth as he mowed the grass at an auto dealership. The sixth victim, a 72-year-old man, was shot to death as he stood on a Washington street corner. Each victim was shot once from a distance. There were no known witnesses.
Ballistics evidence also linked the Maryland slayings with the shooting of a 43-year-old woman in Spotsylvania County, Va. She was shot in the back in a parking lot at a Michaels craft store in Fredericksburg, Va.
October 5, 2002 -
The bullet used to shoot a Virginia woman matches ammunition used to kill at least four of six victims of a sniper spree in Washington, D.C., and suburban Maryland. Tests conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms confirmed that the same weapon was used in five of the random shootings over the past three days in Montgomery County, Md., and Washington. Tests were still under way to determine any links to two additional shootings in Maryland. "The round that we collected there is in fact a match to the rounds that were used here in Maryland and also in D.C.," said Maj. Howard Smith, of the Spotsylvania County, Va., sheriff's office. The 43-year-old Spotsylvania woman was shot in the back in a parking lot at a craft store in Fredericksburg, Va., about 55 miles south of Rockville, at about 2:30 p.m. Authorities said that .223-caliber bullets used to kill four of the victims came from the same weapon, perhaps a hunting or assault rifle. But the bullets used in the two other killings "are in very poor shape," Moose said. "We may not be able to link them." T
he Virginia victim was hospitalized in serious condition. The five victims in the Washington suburbs were gunned down in broad daylight in public places during a 16-hour span: two at gas stations, one outside a grocery, another outside a post office and the fifth as he mowed the grass at an
A 72-year-old pedestrian in Washington was shot to death as he stood on a street corner.
October 4, 2002 - A former FBI profiler said the sniper killer in suburban Maryland was probably a calculating white man in his 20s or early 30s who lives nearby and has a score to settle. "This isn't somebody who just snapped," said Clinton Van Zandt, a former FBI agent. "This is someone who likes what they're doing. This is someone who is playing God. They're sticking their finger in the face of the authorities and society." The gunman "is somebody who is cold, who is calculating, who has the skills and doesn't care who they hurt," Van Zandt said.
October 4, 2002 - Law enforcement officers searched the Washington suburbs for a sniper who they believe randomly targeted five people in six separate attacks. Each of the victims was killed by a single bullet. Tests on the bullets and wounds indicated all five victims were hit from a distance, likely with .223-caliber bullets from an assault or hunting rifle.
None of the victims appeared to have been robbed, and police said race did not appear to be a motive. The victims were Hispanic and white; one was a native of India. "There's still no information to lead us to think our victims are associated," said Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose. "They don't appear to be anyone's enemies, just random targets." Police searched for white trucks and vans in the area after reports that a white box truck was seen speeding away from one of the scenes.
The killings began in the evening of October 2. Around 6 p.m., James D. Martin, 55, of Silver Spring, a program analyst for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was shot in the parking lot of a Wheaton grocery store. Around 7:45 a.m. the next day, James L. "Sonny" Buchanan, 39, Arlington, Va., was killed while cutting grass at a car dealership in the White Flint area. Prenkumar Walekar, 54, was next. He was shot about 8:15 a.m., while pumping gas into his cab at a Mobil station in the Aspen Hill area. About a half-hour later, Sarah Ramos, 34, of Silver Spring, died at a post office next to the Leisure World retirement community in Silver Spring. Dolores Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera, 25, of Silver Spring, was shot
and killed about 10 a.m. at a Shell gas station in Kensington while she was vacuuming her van.
The killings brought the number of homicides in Montgomery County to 25, the most since 1997. The last time as many people were killed in one day in the county was in July 1995, when a handyman's assistant killed podiatrist David Marc Goff, his three daughters and a contractor at Goff's home in Potomac. Bruman S. Alvarez pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.
October 3, 2002 - Five people were shot to death separately within a few miles of each other around the suburbs of Washington D.C. Authorities announced the killings, that occured over a 16-hour span, were probably related. Investigators had not found any indication that the five victims, killed between 6 p.m. on a Wednesday and 10 a.m. the next day, were related in any way or had any conflict with anyone, Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose said.
The first slaying happened shortly after 6 p.m. when a 55-year-old man shot in the parking lot of a Wheaton grocery store, police spokeswoman Nancy Demme said. Another victim was shot while riding a lawnmower at about 7:45 a.m. The next victim, a cab driver, was shot around 8:15 a.m. while pumping gas at a Mobil station. About a half-hour later, a woman was shot and killed and died on a bench outside a post office. The last victim -- another female -- was shot about 10 a.m. when she was vacuuming out her van at a Shell gas station in Kensington.
About a half hour before the first shooting , the windows of a store at a shopping center were shot at, but no one was injured.