Louisiana killing tied to sniper rifle Bullets from suspects’ gun match attack in late September NBC, MSNBC AND NEWS SERVICES Oct. 31 — Ballistics evidence has linked the rifle that authorities say was used in the sniper rampage in the Washington, D.C., area to a fatal unsolved shooting in Baton Rouge, La., sources told NBC News on Thursday. Police in the Louisiana city charged John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo — the two suspects in the sniper attacks — with first-degree murder in the Baton Rouge attack on Sept. 23. • Shop at B&N.com • Auctions at uBid • Yellow Pages • lavalife.com Where singles click • Professional Tips • MSN Broadband Is the prosecution of the sniper case being handled properly? Yes No Vote to see results Is the prosecution of the sniper case being handled properly? * 19015 responses Yes 54% No 46% Survey results tallied every 60 seconds. Live Votes reflect respondents' views and are not scientifically valid surveys. BATON ROUGE police Chief Pat Englade said his department believed the two robbed and killed Hong Im Ballenger, 45, as she was leaving her beauty shop on the evening of Sept. 23, about 10 days before the sniper shooting spree began in the Washington area. Federal and local authorities announced the latest shooting connected to the case at an afternoon news conference in Baton Rouge, which is Muhammad’s hometown. Muhammad and Malvo have previously been placed in the city in July, when they visited Muhammad’s relatives. Englade, however, said they were in Baton Rouge on Sept. 23. MUM ON INQUIRY’S EXPANSION He said Ballenger was “robbed of her purse and shot to death” in the parking lot outside her shop on Florida Boulevard. “The crime lab has linked the .223 caliber bullet with the weapon used in several of the D.C.-area sniper killings,” he said. Englade refused to speculate on whether the scope of the investigation would widen. “We’re not going to limit it it to one,” he said. “There could be other cases involved in Baton Rouge. We’re not going to make any comments as to how broad the investigation is at this point.” Attorney General John Ashcroft released a statement from the Justice Department that said authorities were not “ruling out the possibility that other individuals may be involved or that the individuals currently in custody may have committed other criminal acts.” Also Thursday, officials in Prince George’s County, Md., where a 13-year-old boy was wounded outside his school, charged Muhammad and Malvo with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder, both of which carry life sentences. THIRD PERSON INVOLVED? Earlier Thursday, the Washington Post reported that the rifle also had been positively linked to a robbery attempt in Alabama that left one woman dead, forcing investigators there to reconsider whether a third person may have been involved in the crime. Advertisement The Post quoted Montgomery, Ala., Police Chief John Wilson as saying that new ballistics tests linked the Bushmaster rifle that authorities say was used by Muhammad and Malvo, in the sniper shootings to the Sept. 21 slaying outside a Montgomery liquor store. Wilson told the newspaper the finding leads him to believe a third person may have been involved in the Alabama slaying, because the two sniper suspects were spotted with a handgun and magazine, not a rifle, the newspaper reported. SECOND TEST MORE RELIABLE Wilson told the Post that James Cavanaugh, an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, told him that the second round of tests was considered more reliable because authorities were able to compare a bullet recovered from the crime scene with one test-fired from the Bushmaster rifle found in the Chevrolet Caprice in which Muhammad and Malvo were sleeping when they were arrested. A recent photograph of John A. Muhammad, right, and John Lee Malvo Cavanaugh declined to comment, and an ATF spokesman said only that “ATF forensic examiners worked closely with Montgomery, Ala., officials.” Wilson said investigators had assumed that they were looking for a .22-caliber handgun because no one saw a “long gun” at the scene. The liquor store manager, Claudine Parker, was killed, and clerk Kellie Adams was shot in the neck. When a patrol car responded to the reports of a shooting outside the liquor store, officers saw a man they later identified as Muhammad standing over the two women, rummaging through their purses and holding a handgun in his right hand, Wilson told the Post. An accomplice, later identified as Malvo, was standing about 50 yards away with a magazine in his hand, possibly acting as a lookout, Wilson said, citing witness accounts. BLUE CAR BLOCKED PATH Officers chased Muhammad, but lost him when a blue car darted out and blocked their path, Wilson said. At the time, Wilson told the Post, the officers thought the car was at the wrong place at the wrong time. But once authorities learned that Muhammad and Malvo had a blue car, he said, his suspicions turned to a possible third person. Local related stories • WRC Washington shootings coverage • Seattle: Gun shop's owner defends trade Malvo has been linked to the Alabama crime through a fingerprint recovered from the magazine. In another development, a U.S. attorney on Wednesday defended his decision to take the sniper suspects into federal custody soon after their arrest, saying it didn’t prevent interrogators from getting good information from the pair. In a statement, Maryland U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio took issue with complaints by local authorities, saying that neither Muhammad nor Malvo was “yielding any useful information” when he instructed local authorities to hand them over. DiBiagio was responding to an article published earlier in the day in The New York Times which quoted local authorities in Maryland and federal agents as saying that Muhammad was talking freely and appeared to be on the verge of confessing when the transfer was ordered. The former Army sergeant has since refused to cooperate. Newsweek: Muhammad's transformation CHARGES FILED IN 3 STATES Three states — Maryland, Virginia and Alabama — have filed murder charges against Muhammad and Malvo in connection with the sniper shootings that terrorized the greater Washington, D.C., area for three weeks beginning Oct. 2 and a failed liquor store robbery in Montgomery, Ala., on Sept. 21 that left a woman dead. Muhammad and Malvo also have been linked to a February murder and another shooting in Tacoma, Wash., though authorities there say it is unlikely they will file charges given the number of other jurisdictions jockeying to try the pair. Muhammad and Malvo could face execution in Virginia and Alabama, while Maryland law would bar capital punishment for Malvo because he is a minor. The federal government staked a preliminary claim to the case on Tuesday, filing a criminal complaint charging Muhammad in the deaths of seven people that would subject him to the death penalty if he is convicted. Read the complaint • 20 counts filed against John Muhammad Muhammad was charged in a 20-count criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., in Prince George’s County, by prosecutors from DiBiagio’s office. Among the charges were seven counts of use of a firearm that resulted in death; extortion and interruption of interstate commerce; interstate transportation in aid of racketeering; and discharging a firearm in a school zone. ‘ABUNDANCE OF CAUTION’ Although police say the sniper suspects were responsible for 13 shootings that claimed 10 lives, the federal complaint names only seven victims — six killed in Montgomery County, Md., and one person murdered in Washington, D.C. A senior Justice Department official, who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said the Virginia cases were omitted “out of an abundance of caution” because of that state’s unique laws regarding double jeopardy — that is, being tried twice for the same crime. Federal charges stemming from those cases could be added later, the official said. The charging complaint did not name Malvo, and it was not clear whether he, too, had been charged. Officials and courts are barred by federal law from discussing or revealing any charges against a juvenile. CAUTION AGAINST RUSH TO JUDGMENT Muhammad’s lead attorney, public defender Jim Wyda, urged the public to withhold judgment until all the evidence is heard. WashPost: Defense case seen as tough “Mr. Muhammad is a 41-year-old father,” Wyda said. “He was an American who served in the Persian Gulf. He was honorably discharged. He has never been convicted of another crime at any time, anywhere.” Death penalty provisions in jurisdictions involved in the sniper shootings: | 1 | 2 MARYLAND State law requires that one of 10 specific circumstances be met for the death penalty to apply. The criterion that might apply: If a defendant commits more than one murder arising out of the same incident. Prosecutors say the case meets that standard because on Oct. 3 four people were killed between 7:41 a.m. and 9:58 a.m. in Montgomery County. They say a moratorium on executions imposed by the governor will soon be lifted. Maryland law sets a minimum age of 18 for the death penalty, which would rule out its use against John Lee Malvo, believed to be 17. VIRGINIA State has broader statute for death penalty, including provisions allowing for execution of killers who commit more than one murder in three years and those with the “intent to intimidate the civilian population at large.” Both could apply in the sniper case. Virginia has executed 86 people since 1982, a total second only to Texas. Unlike Maryland, a 17-year-old would be eligible for the death penalty. WASHINGTON, D.C. No death penalty. | 1 | 2 ALABAMA State law would not require prosecutors to prove which suspect was the triggerman in the killing of a woman outside a Montgomery liquor store. A 17-year-old would be eligible for the death penalty. FEDERAL Prosecutors would have to bring conspiracy charges carrying the death penalty. For instance, the Hobbs Act allows the government to seek death in murders where killers try to extort money. Police said two letters left during the attacks demanded $10 million. Source: The Associated Press Printable version In an affidavit filed in court, federal agents detailed evidence they said was recovered when Muhammad and Malvo were arrested at a Maryland rest stop: The rifle that police have linked to some of the sniper killings; a brown cotton glove matching a glove found at one of the shooting scenes; two “shooting mittens”; a green military backpack containing a global positioning system transceiver; a single .223-caliber round of ammunition; two boxes of Winchester .338 ammunition; a Sony laptop computer; bolt cutters; a two-way radio; and a wallet containing several driver’s licenses issued under different names but all bearing Muhammad’s photo.