CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About Preferences
powered by Yahoo!
Return to Transcripts main page


Two Arrested at Rest Stop North of Washington

Aired October 24, 2002 - 08:32   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to Montgomery, Alabama, where Brian Cabell is standing by. This has got to be one of the stranger twists in this case. Can you tell us this morning about what investigators learned in Alabama that ultimately led to the arrest of these two suspects in the sniper investigation?
BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are still trying to sort it out. You're right, the tie between the sniper case in Montgomery, Alabama and Marion, Alabama, which is to the west of us, very intriguing, somewhat tenuous at this point. We are told now that there will be a press conference here in about a half hour. The police chief here in Montgomery will be addressing a number of these questions. We may get some answers.

But what we can tell you is this, about five weeks ago, September 21st, this liquor store behind me was held up. Two women were shot, one of them was shot to death. And afterwards -- well, actually in the last couple of days, on Tuesday, apparently, a tie was established between the sniper incidents up in Washington, the Washington area, and this.

As a result, federal authorities contacted the investigators down here, wanted to know more about this particular shooting. And shortly thereafter, the lead investigator in this case flew up to Washington to hand over some information.

Now, beyond that, we don't want to go too far, but we can tell you that "The Baltimore Sun," is saying on a piece of paper found in this general area, they found some fingerprints that matched those of John Malvo.

Now, about 50, 60 miles west of here in a little town of Marion, there is a training camp by him the name of Ground Zero USA, a training camp for security personnel, law enforcement personnel, live gunfire exercises there. There is a bus, there is a car on the scene with bullet holes, mannequins, again, a training exercise facility that the owner says totally legitimate. It's said to have some ties to the paramilitary. We talked to him extensively last night, and he said absolutely not. He says there was not a search of his facility, but FBI authorities confirm they did, in fact, search this facility in Marion in the last day or so.

So, once again, a connection there. We don't know precisely why. We may get further information on this a little later this morning. As I say, in a half hour or so, at the top of the hour, we will have the police chief here in Montgomery, John Wilson, will address some of these questions. We may get some further answers -- Paula. ZAHN: We probably should mention that Kelli Arena, our correspondent at the Justice Department, mentioned that one of her sources said, and only one, she made very clear, this could be a case of sympathizers. I'm hoping when the news conference comes down, we learn a little bit more about what linkage could possibly link between Ground Zero USA. They're saying absolutely nothing, right, at this hour about why they searched it?

CABELL: No. They are simply saying the authorities out of the Washington D.C. area came down. They contacted them. They wanted some information. They had established, they thought in their mind, that there was some sort of tie between what is happening in Washington and what is happening down here.

The perpetrator here was identified as a 5'8" to 5'10" young black man, and beyond that, we don't know anything further, except "The Baltimore Sun" is saying, the fingerprints of Malvo was found here. We may get something this morning, but I expect more of the substantial information will come out of Washington D.C.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Brian Cabell. We will be coming back to you a lot.

Now we will turn our attention to James Hattori, who joins us from Tacoma, Washington this morning. We are still trying to make sense of all the West Coast strands of this story as well.

Do the best you can in helping us understand how complicated this investigation is.

JAMES HATTORI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me just start off by telling you what happened here yesterday. Paula, as we've been reporting, the FBI ATF were here searching the property where they believe John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo lived for a time earlier this year. We know that they confiscated a lot of evidence, including a tree stump in their search, at least law enforcement sources tell us, for bullet fragments. So they've got some evidence in their custody, which they will now examine and possibly use as they try to build a case, as these two men have been identified as suspects, as we've reported, in the D.C. sniper case.

Now with me right now is David Burnson who is a neighbor here. You live three, four houses down the street. What did you see yesterday when the FBI arrived?

DAVID BURNSON, NEIGHBOR IN TACOMA, WA.: Well, when I got up about 11:00, I looked outside and saw some cars parked outside. And then I checked out to see what is happening. I usually do that when I have strange cars in the neighborhood. And I looked down the street and I saw a fire engine and several other cars down the street. I began to wonder what was going on. Pretty soon, a lady came and got into a trunk of one of the cars, and I saw on her shirt that it was FBI. So I thought there has got to be something big going on over there.

HATTORI: It is something big. HATTORI: Did you have ever have any suspicions there was something going on here?

BURNSON: Never did.

HATTORI: There were reports, a neighbor across the street heard gunshots. You've heard gun shots as well?

BURNSON: Oh, yes. I've heard -- at different times, I've heard gun shots. One time, I heard about six shots in a row, and I knew that wasn't the firecrackers, like some of the kids set off in the neighborhood occasionally.

HATTORI: Did you know or have any acquaintance with John Allen Muhammad, who lived here?

BURNSON: No. But I've been asked this many times before. But I didn't recognize the name or anything like that, but when I saw on television the picture, I thought, well, he looks awful familiar to me. So I figured that was this fellow that was here. In fact, he was about 5'10", something like that, in height.

HATTORI: But you had no idea anything was going on here out of the normal?

BURNSON: No, he was kind of (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but we have several people who move in and out here, so that makes it a little more difficult. We have quite a few people walk by when I'm working in the yard. So it gets kind of hard to identify everybody.

HATTORI: OK. Mr. Burnson, thank you for joining us this morning and getting up this early.

BURNSON: You're welcome.

HATTORI: Paula, as we've been saying, the evidence has been collected now. Presumably, it will be forwarded to the task force in Washington D.C. for their examination, and as they now continue to investigate and build a case against the two suspects in this -- Paula.

ZAHN: James, is there much information this morning on this friend of Mr. Muhammad's and Mr. Malvo's, who apparently became suspicious about the pair and, in turn, called the Maryland task force? Do we know who this man is?

HATTORI: Don't know for sure. There are reports that Mr. Muhammad was involved in a business here at one point, a martial arts studio, I believe, and had some other acquaintances. So it may have been somebody who was acquainted with him through that connection. I think that was reported in "The Baltimore Sun" article that's also been referred to, but "The Seattle Times" article was what you're referring to, that reported there was somebody who was a friend of Mr. Muhammad here in Tacoma who called the task force at one point, and raised some suspicions or reported some suspicions about both Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo here in Tacoma. So, no, those details have yet to come out and I'm sure as the investigation proceeds, hopefully, we will hear more about that -- Paula.

ZAHN: And, James, also that article goes on to talk about law enforcement sources being told that Muhammad was a guy who had gone through at least two wives, had bitter custody battles over his children, and a neighbor, they are quoting, who was friendly with them says he happened, Muhammad happened, to be a friendly guy, but he was a control freak who kidnapped his children. Do we know anything more about the relationship between Mr. Muhammad and his stepson, the other man being held as a suspect in this case?

HATTORI: You know, that's really one of the big mysteries. There has not been a lot that has come out about Mr. Malvo. He's 17 years old. He apparently went to high school in Bellingham, which is two or three hours north of here near the Canadian border. But he hasn't been in school reportedly for the last year. So how he fits into that relationship is still a bit cloudy and, as you say, apparently, Mr. Muhammad had many relationships that have not been completely sorted out.

He is -- what that article refers to an ex-wife in Louisiana where he's been divorced from for sometime and custody battles involving children from another marriage. So we're still sorting all of those details out and trying to find out more -- Paula.

ZAHN: It may have been an interview you did earlier with somebody in Bellingham. But isn't it true they got very little information about John Lee Malvo's years at school? As I understand it, students had limited recollection of him.

HATTORI: You know, one thing that might explain some of this is that the friend that reportedly raised suspicions to the sniper task force in Baltimore described the pair as somewhat transient. They apparently lived in Bellingham for a while. It's unclear exactly how long. They lived here, obviously, for a while. There is another residence in Tacoma where they lived and which has been reportedly also been searched.

So keeping track of where they've been and for how long they were in a location is apparently of some problem and challenge for us certainly and maybe less so for the authorities, but we will have to hear from them what they've sorted out -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, James Lee Hattori, reporting from Tacoma Washington this morning.

Right now, we're going to turn our attention to Dorothy Lewis, who is a professor of psychiatry at NYU, author of the book "Guilty by Reason of Insanity." A psychiatrist explores the minds of killers.

Good morning. Welcome.

DOROTHY LEWIS, AUTHOR: Good morning, Paula. ZAHN: I know you've been riveted by the new development, as we have. Officials now tell us they believe they have caught the snipers. At this hour, we are also told that they don't believe anybody else was involved. And I wanted to share with you some of what Kelli Arena, our justice department correspondent reported earlier today about what they think they know about these two men. One official telling Kelli that this could have been the result of some sort of sick competition between the father and stepson.

LEWIS: That is speculative, obviously. Let me tell you what I had thought prior to this. Because by now, I've seen I've seen 20 or 21 serial killers, and several of them never killed until they had been in the military. Several had actually been in the Marines. One of them had said he went into the military in order to learn how to kill people. I think that also what is consistent with the other people whom I've seen is this very grandiose idea, I am God. And in another case, I'm going to foment a race war in the whole country. People are going to think there are many snipers all over.

Here, we have a man who said, "I am God." And also I wouldn't discount his changing his name to Muhammad. The sniper who I saw had changed his name for certain religious reasons and certain fantasies, and it is certainly possible that he changed his name to Muhammad out of some religious belief and that he may even have picked Washington as a place to kind of pick up the banner of 9/11.

But one thing we can say is that he has been on a spree, which would be consistent with several of the serial killers we've seen, where they get up and they are psychotic, and they're going and going and going and going, and then they kind of taper off. The other thing that is consistent that is that toward the end, they want to get caught.

Again, I'm talking about a limited experience. We've only seen 20 or 21 serial killers. But in several cases, as in the case of Ted Bundy, unconsciously, he wanted to get caught. And this man kept giving hint after hint after hint saying, you know, come on, stop me.

ZAHN: But the hints came pretty late in the process.


ZAHN: As did the alleged monetary demands, which apparently surfaced, not only in the first note found in Ashland, Virginia, but in the second note found in the woods off the Silver Spring, Maryland shooting site.

Does that make sense to you?

LEWIS: That is absolutely new to me. I have never seen that. I have seen serial killers who killed for monetary gain, but they were very quiet about it. They poisoned people. They lured people and killed them and took their money. But this seemed to be a twist, and I wonder if it was even an afterthought, or I'm not sure what it was for him. ZAHN: I want to come back to the conversion idea. "The Seattle Times" reporting this morning that one of the suspects, James Allen Muhammad, whose name I guess was James Allen Williams at one point, did make a conversion to Islam at some point.

Now this -- we have to be careful with this. Kelli Arena has talked with a bunch of officials today, and she said out of the all of the folks she has talked to, only one official has suggested this may be a case of sympathethizers. "The Seattle Times," the only news organization reporting this morning that law enforcement officials may have been told that these two men may have been motivated by anti- American sentiment post September 11th. This is a very early read we are getting from our own news sources in "The Seattle Times."

LEWIS: I think what's more likely is this man, I would guess, has been disturbed, has been perhaps even psychotic on and off for many, many years.

ZAHN: Reporting that there has been tremendous family problems?


ZAHN: Alleged charges that he had kidnapped his own...

LEWIS: Exactly. And this is not the first time that he has done something wild and dangerous. I had suggested that they look into dishonorable discharges, because several of the people whom we have seen got into hassles in the service and then were discharged.

And it may be that 9/11 precipitated some of this. I would doubt that he started out on this kind of mission, but that something triggered this delusion now. Maybe he felt he had to save the Islamic nation or something like this.

ZAHN: The only report that I've heard that would suggest there was any discomfort in leaving the military came from ABC News Radio very early on this morning.

LEWIS: I did not hear that.

ZAHN: That was it, simply that it may not have been a clean cut with the military. I think they used a pleasant cut with the military.

Just a final thought on based on what we know at this hour, what might have motivated these men to kill the way they killed.

LEWIS: My -- again, not having seen him, I can't be sure. I can't know his delusion, because he's operating on something that is not logical. But I think that some upset in his life, some disappointment, something stirred him up, and he is probably given to episodic psychotic states, and that that triggered it, and the fantasies may have been brewing for a while. We don't know when he changed his religion, but that is so typical.


© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.