Alabama Announcement Expected Later Friday
MONTGOMERY, Alabama (CNN) -- Authorities plan to elaborate Friday on
alleged links between the suspects in the D.C.-area sniper shootings
and a murder at a Montgomery, Alabama, liquor store, with the police
chief there saying that some "breaking information" will be released
at an afternoon news conference.
Chief John Wilson said that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms has given new information to the Montgomery police that
"strengthens our case."
Capital murder warrants were issued there last week for John Allen
Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, in the September 21 murder of
liquor store employee Claudine Parker. Another woman was wounded in
Ballistic tests show that the gun in the killing in Montgomery was
the same Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle used in many of the sniper
attacks that began October 2, Alabama authorities said, and because
of that they are not discounting the possibility that another person
could have been involved in the shooting.
Wilson at first said a .22-caliber handgun had been used in the
shooting. Witnesses have told police they saw one person holding a
magazine and one person with a handgun, the chief said. But because
no one saw the men with the rifle, it raises the question of a third
Wilson said he has a "gut feeling" that a third person was involved,
and Attorney General John Ashcroft said investigators have not ruled
out the possibility.
Baton Rouge connection
Louisiana has become the fourth state to file charges against
Muhammad and Malvo.
A fatal shooting in Washington state is also being investigated for
possible links to the pair, according to authorities. Muhammad faces
a 20-count federal complaint and both men have been charged in
Maryland, Virginia and Alabama.
The Louisiana announcement came hours after Alabama authorities said
the gun used in a September 21 slaying at a liquor store in
Montgomery also matched the Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle used in the
The Louisiana slaying was two days later, and the D.C.-area shootings
began about a week later, on October 2.
In Baton Rouge, authorities issued arrest warrants for Muhammad and
Malvo after ballistics tests matched the September 23 murder weapon
with the same rifle found in the suspects' 1990 Chevy Caprice.
Hong Ballenger, 45, a Korean native and mother of three, was shot
September 23 in the back of the head with a single bullet while she
was getting into her car, shortly after closing up her beauty supply
shop around 6:40 p.m. Her purse was stolen.
Her husband of 22 years, James Ballenger, said she was carrying more
than $1,000, most of it money from the store that was to be deposited
in the bank.
"She didn't see it coming," he told CNN. "She had whatever the store
made that day and was on her way to turn it in."
Ballenger suspected Malvo might be involved in his wife's killing
when he saw pictures of the sniper suspects last week, he said. He
told local police, "Maybe this same guy killed my wife."
Police initially told him his wife's slaying "didn't fit the same MO
(modus operandi) because she was robbed."
But eventually police and the FBI took a closer look because Muhammad
and Malvo had been in Baton Rouge over the summer. Baton Rouge Police
Chief Pat Englade said evidence retrieved from the suspects' car in
Maryland shows they were in Baton Rouge the day Ballenger was shot to
More cases being reviewed
These cases could be just the beginning. Englade said authorities in
Louisiana are looking at other unsolved killings in the area to see
whether they are linked to the suspects.
"There could be other cases in Baton Rouge involved," he said. "We're
investigating anything at this point."
Authorities in Lynnwood, Washington, said they are investigating
whether Muhammad shot at their police station two years ago.
Police in Tacoma, Washington, earlier this week said they suspect the
two may have killed a 21-year-old mother in February and may have
used a firearm to vandalize a synagogue there.
Muhammad and Malvo were in Tacoma February 16 when Keenya Cook was
killed in her home, shot in the head. Police said the two may have
had access to the gun that killed her.
Third person may be involved
Attorney General John Ashcroft said investigators have not ruled out
the possibility that others may have been involved in the sniper
attacks that killed 10 people and wounded three others.
"We are not ruling out the possibility that other individuals may be
involved or that the individuals currently in custody may have
committed other criminal acts," Ashcroft said in a statement.
"We will proceed deliberately, cautiously, and not jump to any
conclusions. The facts and the evidence will determine the final
outcome, and we intend to follow the facts wherever they may lead,"
Ashcroft's comments about the possibility of others involved seemed
to echo those of Montgomery's Wilson.
Jurisdictional tug of war
In another development in the jurisdictional tug of war in the D.C.
area, authorities in Prince George's County, Maryland, filed
attempted first-degree murder charges against both suspects in the
shooting of a 13-year-old boy outside a middle school in Bowie.
Jack Johnson, the Maryland state attorney for the county, said he
intends to prosecute the case, no matter how long he has to wait; but
he said the four counties in Maryland and Virginia that have filed
murder charges should try the two individuals first.
Johnson also said he was not convinced the death penalty would apply
in any of the Maryland cases.
Securing death penalty-eligible convictions against the two --
something that would be possible only in Virginia because of Malvo's
age -- has been the key issue in the debate over who should try the