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Sniper Suspects to Face Murder Charges in Maryland - 2002-10-25

Prosecutors in the U.S. state of Maryland plan to bring murder charges against two suspects in connection with the Washington area sniper case, and are seeking the death penalty against one of them.

41-year-old Army veteran John Allen Muhammad and his alleged accomplice, 17-year-old illegal Jamaican immigrant John Lee Malvo, both face six counts of murder. The two are in custody after being arrested Thursday when authorities found them with the rifle allegedly used in the shooting spree that left 10 people dead. Maryland prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty for the younger of the two because he is a minor.

But because the sniper spree spanned multiple counties as well as two states and the city of Washington, questions remain over which jurisdiction will take the lead in prosecution. The Justice Department could still step in and take over the case.

Maryland state's attorney Doug Gansler believes prosecutors in his state, where most of the sniper killings occurred, are best placed to gain a conviction.

"We are able to present the best and most extensive evidence here in Montgomery County," he said. "The investigation began, ended and was centered here in Montgomery County."

Authorities in Montgomery, Alabama, were the first Friday to announce they would seek the death penalty against both sniper suspects, but for an unrelated crime, a robbery and murder at a Montgomery liquor store last month.

"We can place them positively here in Alabama at the scene by both witness accounts and physical evidence," said John Wilson, Montgomery's police chief. "We intend to aggressively pursue the death penalty in our case."

It was that crime that helped authorities in the Washington D.C. area crack the sniper case. John Lee Malvo's fingerprints were left at the Alabama crime scene and they eventually led authorities to John Allen Muhammad as well as the weapon that authorities say was used in the sniper spree.