A new book on the Washington, D.C., sniper case describes the ease with which John Muhammad, then 41, and companion Lee Boyd Malvo, then 17, eluded authorities while they searched in vain for a white cargo truck. The Washington Post reported today on the release of a book by its reporters Sari Horwitz and Michael Ruane. “Sniper: Inside the Hunt for the Killers Who Terrorized the Nation,” details an investigation that was both “heroically efficient and cripplingly chaotic,” the Post says.
On Oct. 3, 2002, a Guatemalan landscaper at the shopping center where a woman was slain, told police he “saw a white truck with a small cab and box-type rear speeding in front of [the victim],” the book says. “It had purple or black lettering that was in English, which [the landscaper] couldn’t read. The truck had a dent in the rear and damage to the rear bumper.”
Locating the mystery truck consumed investigators for three weeks, while the description of the actual suspect vehicle, an old Chevy seen near the site of another killing, received little attention from the sniper task force. Officers who thought the battered car looked suspicious ran computer checks of its license number at least nine times in 23 days, but saw no reason to detain its occupants.
Muhammad’s murder trial is scheduled to start Oct. 14 in Virginia Beach, and Malvo’s Nov. 10 in Chesapeake, Va. Each suspect could face a death sentence. The book offers new details about infighting among prosecutors from different jurisdictions as they tried to be the first to put the alleged snipers on trial.