D.C. sniper suspects linked to slayings in Louisiana, Alabama

Friday, November 1, 2002

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Authorities charged the two sniper suspects with murder Thursday in a Louisiana attack that came just two days after a similar slaying in Alabama.

John Lee Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, are now charged with a month-long series of killings stretching from the Gulf Coast to the suburbs around the nation's capital. Police nationwide are said to be looking for links to the two men, assisted by federal authorities.

The two men face multiple state and federal counts in the Alabama and Louisiana cases and the sniper spree that left 10 people dead and three others wounded in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. They are also suspects in a February killing in Washington state.

Baton Rouge Police Chief Pat Englade issued first-degree murder warrants for Muhammad and Malvo after ballistics tests matched the rifle used in the sniper shootings to the Sept. 23 slaying and robbery of a beauty shop worker in the Louisiana capital.

Hong Im Ballenger, 45, died from a single shot to the head as she left work. Witnesses said the gunman was a young black man who fled into a nearby park and evaded bloodhounds called in to track him down.

According to the arrest warrant, police believe Muhammad shot the woman and Malvo stole her purse and fled.

Liquor store slaying

Earlier in the day, Alabama authorities said the same rifle, a .223-caliber Bushmaster, had been linked to the shooting death of a liquor store worker in Montgomery on Sept. 21, two days before the Louisiana slaying and 315 miles away.

In that case, the suspect -- allegedly Malvo -- was seen rifling through one of the victim's purses when he was chased off by an arriving police officer.

The sniper suspects have been in custody in Maryland since they were captured at a highway rest stop Oct. 24.

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