"Ever since then, I swore to Lee, Lee Boyd Malvo, and my children, I would protect him the same way I would protect them," he said.

Eyebrows furrowed in the nearly filled courtroom as he spoke. Relatives of victims sat somberly. For some, such as Victoria Snider, sister of "Sonny" Buchanan, it is the third sniper trial they will attend.

Asked if it was hard, Snider replied, "It is, but this time, this is it. I hope this is it."

Prosecutors are to begin presenting evidence and witnesses today.

Earlier, Winfree spoke at length about the six sniper killings and placed them in the context of the 13 shootings, 10 of them fatal, in the Washington area.

She stood in front of a chart of photos of the victims as she snapped together the black Bushmaster rifle that had been used to kill 10 people as they pumped gas, loaded cars or walked hand-in-hand with their spouses.

Winfree showed graphic photos of the victims slumped and bloody at the parking lots and gas stations where they were killed. She told jurors that they would see and hear exhaustive evidence implicating Muhammad in the killings, including DNA, fingerprints, ballistics evidence and testimony from witnesses and one of the victims, Caroline Seawell of Virginia, who survived.

With chilling detail, Winfree listed the ways that Muhammad's blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice had been altered to make it a killing machine. A hole cut above the license plate allowed the shooter hiding in the trunk to target his victim. The back seat had been modified to hide the Bushmaster rifle and to enable the shooter to move quickly to and from the trunk. The interior lid of the trunk, which was left open slightly to make more room for the rifle, had been painted dark blue to blend with the car. Winfree described the large trunk as "comfortable" for the shooter who crouched inside, communicating by walkie-talkie with the driver.

As she held the rifle, a clone of the M-16 used by the military, Winfree explained that a bipod attachment gave the shooter "the time to get comfortable, stay comfortable and to wait for optimum conditions."

Winfree attributed the snipers' ability to elude police during the 22-day rampage to craftiness and "dumb luck." She enumerated the times when the suspects slipped by police or made threatening phone calls that were disregarded as hoaxes.

The Caprice, a former police cruiser, repeatedly caught the attention of officers. Yet the car and Muhammad passed police background checks. Muhammad charmed officers, Winfree said, adding, "He's polite. He's cool. He's respectful."

Data from police checks places Muhammad at or near the scene shortly before or after several killings, she said.

Winfree showed photos of each victim and spoke of their spouses and children. She stressed that each victim had been innocently going about daily tasks when gunned down.

Building to a crescendo, Winfree pointed to Muhammad 10 times as she listed the name of each victim and accused him of each killing. She showed photos of evidence left behind at the attack scenes, including a tarot death card, an ADC map of Baltimore City and County bearing Muhammad's fingerprints, a pen barrel that contained his DNA.

Prosecutors will introduce as evidence a laptop confiscated from Muhammad that contains maps with locations of five shootings marked with a skull and crossbones, Winfree said.

Winfree projected photos of letters left by the sniper, including one with 12 red stars indicating the first 12 victims and one black star representing the final victim, bus driver Conrad Johnson. Each letter begins, "For you, Mr. Police. Call me God."
Trial developments

• In opening statements, Muhammad told jurors that he was in the area looking for his children, who had been turned over to their mother by a judge, and that he did not kill anyone.

• He did not address the evidence presented by prosecutors, which includes a rifle connected to the shootings that police say they found in his car.

• Prosecutors showed graphic photos of victims and detailed evidence, including fingerprints, DNA, ballistics and witness testimony from a survivor.

• Jurors saw photos of items found at scenes of the attacks, including a tarot death card, ADC map of Baltimore City and County bearing Muhammad's fingerprints, and a pen barrel that contained his DNA.

Today: Testimony begins with the first of 135 prosecution witnesses.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com julie.scharper@baltsun.com