By Stephen Kiehl
November 6, 2003
The "good one" phrase was on a map showing the Fairfax County Home Depot where Linda Franklin was fatally shot in the head from a distance of 160 yards, the expert testified. As he said the phrase during the trial of suspect John Allen Muhammad yesterday, Franklin's daughter buried her face in her hands and wept.
It was the first time that Katrina Hannum, Franklin's daughter, had lost her composure during the trial. It was also one of the few emotional moments in a day that focused on science and forensics as prosecutors attempted to connect Muhammad and his alleged accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, to last fall's sniper shootings.
Prosecutors have finished presenting the details of 16 shootings they say are connected to the pair. Now they will try to prove the connection.
Experts testified that Malvo's fingerprint, palm print and DNA were found on the Bushmaster rifle used in most of the shootings. They said they did not find Muhammad's prints or DNA on the rifle. Experts said they did find DNA consistent with Muhammad's on a scope for the rifle, and Malvo's DNA on items left at the scene of three shootings.
Prosecutors also showed the jury information that they said was retrieved from an electronic organizer found in Muhammad's Chevrolet Caprice. They said the organizer contained a list of "people to die later," including a disc jockey at an oldies radio station, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Police Department, "George" at an FBI hotline and "[expletive] at CNN."
The jury also heard two recordings from a digital voice recorder allegedly found in the Caprice. One was 21 minutes from news conferences by former Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose, the head of the sniper task force. The other recording lasted 20 seconds and contained two voices identified as Muhammad's and Malvo's by witnesses.
The voice said to be Muhammad's speaks first on the recording, saying, "We have given you a way out. You know our requests, you know our demands, and you know that it can be done. ... We will not deviate from what we told you we would do." It is an apparent reference to $10 million demanded for an end to the killings.
A voice identified as Malvo's then says, "Until then, just follow the body bags."
Muhammad, 42, is on trial in the killing of civil engineer Dean H. Meyers at a Manassas, Va., gas station. But 15 other shootings from several states have been allowed into evidence because the prosecution is building a case that Muhammad and Malvo were attempting to intimidate the public and influence the government.
Muhammad faces the death penalty if convicted. Under Virginia law, prosecutors must prove the Army veteran was a "direct participant" in the shootings. Prosecutors have amassed circumstantial evidence but have not been able to physically link Muhammad to the rifle.
Yesterday's testimony did not help in that regard. Charles Colman, a fingerprint expert with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, testified that he found prints from Malvo's left ring finger and palm on the grip of the rifle. He said the prints were in a position indicating Malvo was holding the weapon upside down.
Fingerprint evidence also pointed to Malvo. The teen-ager's prints were said to be found on a weapons catalog dropped near the scene of a double shooting in Montgomery, Ala., as well as a CinnaRaisins bag and a Halloween-themed bag found in the woods behind the Ponderosa restaurant in Ashland, Va., where Jeffrey Hopper was shot.
Some of the more chilling evidence yesterday came from the laptop computer reportedly found in Muhammad's car. An analysis of the computer's hard drive showed a mapping program installed Sept. 29, 2002 - a few days before the sniper shootings began. The program contained six maps of the Washington, D.C., region, with close-ups of the scenes of shootings.
Two icons of skulls and crossbones were shown on a map of Fredericksburg, Va. - one near the Michaels store where Caroline Seawell was shot and another near the Exxon station where Kenneth Bridges was killed. Another map showed in green a route from Fredericksburg to Bowie. The route ended near the middle school where a boy was shot. "When I typed in 'Benjamin Tasker Middle School,' the software knew where the school was and placed the icon in for me," testified John Hair, the FBI special agent and cybercrimes expert who examined the computer.
Another map, one of Montgomery County, contained four skull-and-crossbones icons. Two were near shooting scenes. Also, a map of the Seven Corners region of Fairfax County had a skull and crossbones over the Home Depot where Linda Franklin was killed, with "good one" typed in beside it.
The computer also contained a file that appeared to be a draft letter that would have been sent to authorities. The letter used the sniper's signature greeting - "Call me God" - and demanded $5 million. No evidence suggested the demand was communicated to police.
A forensic chemist from the ATF testified that traces of nitroglycerin and gunshot residue were found in the trunk of the Caprice. The chemist, Edward Bender, said the presence of those residues "would be consistent with a firearm being discharged in the trunk."
Bender also examined the contents of a duffel bag found in the woods across from where bus driver Conrad Johnson was killed in Aspen Hill. The bag contained black pepper, a mineral called formiculite, onion skins, juniper leaves, thorns and a glove that all appeared similar to items later found in the Caprice.
Prosecutors have brought the Caprice to Virginia Beach and might suggest the jury take a field trip to see the car that has become a centerpiece of the case. Lead prosecutor Paul B. Ebert would not comment on that possibility yesterday, but he said the car "is not far away."
Yesterday's proceedings were largely spent on giving jurors a primer on DNA analysis and explaining the findings of the numerous DNA tests conducted on items found in the Caprice and at shooting scenes. Most of the DNA was said to be Malvo's.
The chance that the DNA belonged to someone else was 1 in 12 quintillion, testified FBI Special Agent Brendan Shea. (Twelve quintillion is the number 12 followed by 18 zeroes.)
Sun staff writer Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.
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