FALLS CHURCH, Va. – The Beltway Sniper has struck again, killing a woman with one shot in the parking lot of a shopping center. The victim was identified Tuesday morning as Linda Franklin, 47, an FBI intelligence analyst from Arlington, Va.
Investigators say the attack has yielded the most detailed clues yet.
For the first time, witnesses were able to give information about license plates on vehicles seen fleeing the scene, including a light-colored Chevrolet Astro van with a burned-out rear taillight.
A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said another witness gave a description of a dark-skinned man, possibly Hispanic or Middle Eastern, in a white van.
"There was some additional information that we were able to get from last night's case, and I am confident that that information is going to lead us to an arrest in the case," Fairfax County Police Chief Tom Manger said.
Law enforcement sources said there was no indication the sniper targeted Linda Franklin because of her job. She worked for the FBI's Cyber-Crimes Division, created last year to focus on computer crimes as well as intellectual property cases.
Montgomery County (Md.) Police Chief Charles Moose, the head of the investigation, emphasized that Franklin was not working on the sniper case.
Franklin, a 47-year-old mother of two grown children, was killed Monday night as she and her husband loaded packages into their car outside a Home Depot store.
Ballistics evidence Tuesday connected the slaying to the gunman who has killed eight other people and wounded two more since Oct. 2.
With the terrifying spree nearly two weeks old, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld agreed Tuesday evening to provide military surveillance aircraft in the hunt for the killer, a Pentagon spokesman said. Sources said federal agents on the plane will relay any information they collect to authorities on the ground.
The Army also has started searching its records for people with sniper training.
Separately, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said investigators are hesitant to rule out the possibility that the slayings are the work of a terrorist because there is no hard evidence about motive.
Friends who gathered at Franklin's Arlington home said she and her husband were planning to move to a bigger home in the area and were at The Home Depot to buy supplies for the move and the new house.
Franklin recently had a double mastectomy following breast cancer and was still in physical therapy at the time of her death, according to her friend Paul Hulseberg. He called her courageous.
"Linda was a dedicated employee, and she will be missed," FBI Director Robert Mueller said. "All of us are deeply shocked and angry over this tragedy."
Robert Young, a Washington construction worker, returned to the shopping center Tuesday to talk with police. He said he had heard a muffled gunshot and saw a white van the night before.
Young said as he backed his truck out of his parking spot, a white Astro van with two men inside tried to turn into his lane. He said the driver appeared very agitated to find his way blocked and instead drove by a neighboring Chinese restaurant and out of sight.
Young described the driver as a short man of slight build who appeared to be Mideastern. He said, "I got a good look at the guy."
The driver "seemed to be excessively irritated because he couldn't pull into my lane," he said. "I thought this fool was going to want to get out of the van and duke or something. But he didn't. He kept on going."
All the victims have been cut down by a single bullet fired from a distance with a high-powered rifle as the victims went about their everyday tasks. The sniper's only apparent communication with investigators has been a tarot death card inscribed, "Dear Policeman, I am God."
In a continuing appeal for the public's help, Moose released composite images of a white van with roof racks that witnesses saw after Friday's slaying of a man at a gas station near Fredericksburg, Va.
Moose said there appeared to be similarities between the van seen at Friday's shooting and the van from Monday night's attack. Manger would not say whether witnesses to the latest attack were able to give complete license plate numbers to investigators.
"Each shooting has revealed more to this investigation. We're encouraged every day," said Michael Bouchard, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The sniper escaped a huge dragnet around Falls Church, 10 miles west of the nation's capital. Traffic was backed up for miles as police surrounded and searched dozens of white vans.
Tod Burke, a former Maryland police officer who teaches criminal justice at Radford University in Virginia, said the killer is either escaping before the dragnet comes down or has some kind of hideout where he can watch the chaos that erupts.
The tension has climbed steadily in the Washington suburbs. On Tuesday, the flood of tips, many of them false alarms from edgy residents, prompted Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening to ban outdoor shooting in four Washington-area counties.
Outside the Home Depot, shoppers tentatively returned while officers made a last sweep for evidence and towed the victim's car away.
"Lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place," Lorraine Burns said as she walked up to a Barnes and Noble bookstore.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.