Virginia authorities met with their counterparts from Maryland and the federal government yesterday to discuss turning over evidence in the Washington area sniper shootings to the prosecutors preparing to try John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo on capital murder charges.
During the morning meeting, which came on the eve of Muhammad's second scheduled court appearance in Prince William County Circuit Court, authorities considered housing the voluminous evidence in a place that would be accessible to prosecutors in both Prince William and Fairfax counties. The proper handling and transfer of evidence is especially critical in the sniper case to ensure its availability for possible prosecutions in other jurisdictions.
Malvo, 17, and Muhammad, 41, are suspects in last month's sniper attacks as well as seven other shootings in Maryland, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Washington state -- 21 in all, 14 of them fatal. Sources said authorities also are investigating a possible link to a shooting in Illinois.
Muhammad faces capital murder charges in the Oct. 9 slaying of Dean H. Meyers, 53, outside a Manassas area gas station. Circuit Court Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. could set a preliminary date for his trial this morning. Under Virginia law, that date would have to be within the next five months unless Muhammad's attorney waives his client's right to a speedy trial.
Malvo will be tried first in Fairfax County on capital charges related to the Oct. 14 killing of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47. He is scheduled to appear in Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Dec. 5.
Malvo's appointed guardian, Todd G. Petit, said yesterday that he will file a motion seeking to have his ward moved from the Fairfax Adult Detention Center to the juvenile jail.
Malvo and Muhammad were transferred last week from federal custody in Maryland to Virginia for prosecution after federal extortion charges against them were dropped. Sources have said that Muhammad has refused to speak with investigators but that Malvo talked about the attacks.
During hours of questioning Thursday night, Malvo said he pulled the trigger in several of the shootings, including Franklin's slaying and the wounding of a 13-year-old middle school student in Bowie, law enforcement sources said.
Prosecutors in Prince William and Fairfax said they would work closely together and with officials from other jurisdictions in preparing their cases because they will seek to prove that each suspect is responsible for more than one killing in a three-year period.
"We have to be able to prove other jurisdictions' cases to a certain extent," Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said.
Investigators from Fairfax and Prince William attended yesterday's meeting along with officials from Montgomery County, the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the U.S. attorney's office.
Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert has said he expects Muhammad's trial to start within the next year. Malvo's case is likely to come second, because his case is still in juvenile court.