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US states vie to charge sniper

Washington, Oct. 26 (Reuters): People in around the US capital enjoyed a weekend free of fear today as a Maryland state prosecutor asserted his bid to be the first to try the two sniper suspects, saying Montgomery county had suffered the most during the three-week siege of the area.

As competition emerged over where suspects John Allen Muhammad and his travelling companion, John Lee Malvo, would be tried, Montgomery county state attorney Douglas Gansler noted that six of the 10 killings occurred in his jurisdiction. The sentiment by most people is that Montgomery county was disproportionately affected in this case, he told MSNBC. Were the best positioned to seek and get the appropriate punishment.

Gansler had said he was confident the case was eligible for the death penalty in Maryland.

Maryland late yesterday was the first to charge Muhammad, a 41-year-old Gulf War veteran, and Malvo, 17, with six counts of first-degree murder in the sniper case. Officials from Virginia, where three people died, also said the death penalty was warranted in the shooting rampage that also wounded three in the region.

Seven jurisdictions around Washington two Maryland counties, four Virginia counties and the district of Columbia could try the case, in addition to possible federal charges.

Both suspects were arrested on Thursday after one of the biggest manhunts in US history.

In Flint, Michigan, police today arrested Nathaniel Osbourne, who is said to be the co-owner with Muhammad of the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice in which the suspects were found, according to MSNBC.

Federal authorities said they wanted to talk with Osbourne and that he is not considered a suspect. As the sniper case moved off the streets and toward the courtroom, children returned to the outdoor football and soccer fields after weeks of virtual lockdown inside their schools and houses. People ran errands and others enjoyed the emerging autumn colours without fear for the first time since October 2, when the sniper shooting spree began.

At Fern Street Gourmet in Alexandria, Virginia, owner Geoff Romine said his customers expressed great relief that they could go about living normally as soon as they heard late Thursday that authorities had caught the sniper. By today, everyone seemed unusually relaxed. Its as if people are happy to be alive again, Romine said. I personally cant wait to watch the kids play soccer.

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