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Washington-Area Sniper Suspect Found Guilty - 2003-11-17

A jury has convicted one of the men who terrorized the Washington area last year during a wave of sniper shootings.

The jury in Virginia found Muhammad guilty in the shooting death of Dean Meyers last October at a gasoline station in the Washington area.

The jury reached the verdict in the town of Virginia Beach after less than seven hours of deliberation.

Muhammad, a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, sat impassively at the defense table as the verdict was announced.

The 42-year-old defendant could receive the death penalty in the sentencing phase of the trial.

Muhammad was convicted of two counts of murder. One accused him of taking part in multiple killings, while the other alleged the murders were designed to terrorize the population.

Muhammad is the first person tried under the Virginia terrorism law, which was passed after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Prosecutors charged that Muhammad was one of the snipers in last year's shooting spree in the Washington area that killed 10 people and seriously wounded three others.

Many of those shot were engaged in normal activities such as shopping or putting gasoline into their cars.

After the jury announced its decision, family members of the victims spoke outside the courthouse.

"I lost my only sister and I miss her so much," said Kwang Shuzka, who's sister was killed by one of the snipers. "I am glad they found him guilty and I am still looking for the death penalty for justice."

Vickie Snyder, who also lost a sister during the shooting spree, expressed the hope that the jury's action could lead to tougher gun control laws in the United States.

"I would like to say that I hope that out of these trials that we all wake up to the gun violence that is in our nation, and the prevalence of it, and why we are selling military weapons to civilians," said Ms. Snyder.

Vijay Walekar, who lost a brother during the sniper attacks, says the trial brought back terrible memories.

"It brings back the whole thing back again, like the day it happened," he said. "Even though it has been a year, it is still a nightmare to me. I still cannot believe that he is dead. So it does bring back everything just like it happened yesterday."

Muhammad's alleged accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, is now on trial in Chesapeake, Virginia for the shooting death of a woman outside a shopping center.