A Montgomery County grand jury yesterday indicted convicted snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo on murder charges in six Montgomery slayings during the series of shootings in October 2002.
Each man was indicted on six counts of murder. If convicted, Malvo could face six consecutive life terms in prison, and Muhammad could face the death penalty.
Six of the 10 Washington area sniper slayings were in Montgomery, including the first and the last. Malvo and Muhammad were indicted in the slayings of James D. Martin, 55; James L. "Sonny" Buchanan, 39; Premkumar A. Walekar, 54; Sarah Ramos, 34; Lori Lewis Rivera, 25; and Conrad E. Johnson, 35.
Buchanan, Walekar, Ramos and Rivera were slain in a span of a few hours Oct. 3. Martin, the first to die in the three-week rampage, was shot the previous day in a shopping center parking lot in Wheaton. Johnson, a Ride On bus driver, was the last person slain before Muhammad and Malvo were arrested Oct. 24. Johnson was shot in his bus in Aspen Hill at 5:55 a.m. Oct. 22.
Malvo, 20, has been jailed in Montgomery since May 25, after Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) decided to send him to Maryland for prosecution.
Malvo's attorney, Harry J. Trainor, said yesterday: "This is the indictment we expected, the indictment we anticipated."
Trainor said it is "far too early to tell" how the court proceedings will go, given that a judge could separate the murder counts into separate trials or a plea bargain could be reached before trial.
"There are all kinds of possibilities -- anything from no trial to six trials," Trainor said.
Malvo was convicted of one sniper killing in Fairfax County and sentenced to life in prison. He then pleaded guilty to a second killing in Spotsylvania County and withdrew his appeals. He was at the Red Onion State Prison in southwestern Virginia when he was transferred to Maryland.
Muhammad, 44, who was convicted in a Prince William County killing and sentenced to death, remains on death row at Virginia's Sussex I State Prison in Waverly. He has challenged his transfer to Montgomery, refusing to sign paperwork needed to send him to Maryland. No dates have been set for Montgomery court proceedings in Muhammad's case. Officials said he probably will be moved to Maryland by mid-July.
Montgomery State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler has not said publicly that he will seek the death penalty for Muhammad. Maryland law requires prosecutors to file notice at least 30 days before trial that they intend to seek the death penalty.
Officials have said that Malvo and Muhammad probably will not go to trial until the spring or summer of 2006.
Gansler has said that he intends to try Muhammad and Malvo together, but it is possible that defense attorneys will ask for separate trials. It is not clear -- and probably will not be for some months -- whether the two will even be tried in Montgomery.
Defendants in Maryland death penalty cases have the automatic right to a change of venue. Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, is ineligible for the death penalty because of a recent Supreme Court ruling abolishing the death penalty for juveniles.
A trial date of Oct. 11 was set yesterday for Malvo, but that is almost certain to be delayed as his attorneys delve into what is expected to be an extremely complex case involving dozens of witnesses and a vast quantity of evidence.