The Beltway Sniper's latest victim, a 37-year-old man whose name and hometown have not been released by police, remained in critical but stable condition Monday after being shot in the stomach and chest area Saturday night outside a Ponderosa restaurant in Ashland, Va.
Although he'd undergone several hours of surgery and needed more, doctors expected him to recover, remaining cautiously optimistic about his prognosis.
"He's lucky to be alive … He's a very, very strong man," Dr. Rao Ivatury, one of the victim's team of physicians, said at a Monday afternoon press conference outside the hospital. "Once he comes out of this, I think he'll have a normal life."
Ivatury estimated the victim is about 6 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds.
His wife, who was with him when he was gunned down, has been at his bedside almost constantly since he was admitted to Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical College of Virginia Hospital in Richmond about 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
"She's been holding up very well," said Trauma Coordinator Nancy Martin. "I get strength from her."
The victim's wife has asked the hospital not to release names or the couple's hometown but identify them only as "out-of-state," Martin said, adding the woman was withholding the information so she could notify everyone of the situation first.
She gave Martin a statement to read on Monday.
"This has been a frightening and difficult time" in which she has faced the potential loss of her "husband, soulmate and friend," the woman said in the statement. She called the prayers and support that have poured in "a bright ray of hope and comfort" and asked the public to "please pray also for the attacker and that no one else is hurt."
Martin said the woman had family members with her for support. The couple is believed not to have children together, though the wife does have one child, Martin said, adding that the child wasn't at the hospital.
Surgeons were able to remove the bullet lodged in the man's body, and turned it over to authorities for analysis. Ballistics experts on Monday matched the bullet with ammunition used in the sniper shootings.
Ivatury said the victim's stomach was ripped apart by the bullet and his pancreas was torn in half. The bullet also grazed his kidney and sliced into his chest. Surgeons had to remove two-thirds of the man's stomach, his spleen and about half his pancreas.
Ivatury said the victim's next surgery would occur in a few days and would involve closing his upper abdominal wall. The doctor said he'd need about three or four more surgeries in total.
Though the man wasn't able to speak because of the tube in his throat, he could blink his eyes and move his arms – all good signs, according to Ivatury. He said the man had been responsive to his wife, but was covered in tubes and dressings and surrounded by monitors. He was breathing with the help of a respirator and was being given sedatives, painkillers and antibiotics to prevent infection.
"We do anticipate lung and abdominal complications," Ivatury told the news conference. He said the most critical period for the man would be the next two to three weeks.
The most difficult challenge for surgeons to date was taking out a portion of the victim's stomach.
"(The bullet) seemed to have exploded in his stomach," he said. It also went through a rib and ended up lodged in the left side of his chest. There were still some bullet fragments in the man's body, according to Ivatury.
Saturday's victim and his wife were traveling through the area and made a stop at the Ponderosa in Ashland to get gas and food.
His wife told authorities that the shot sounded like a car backfiring, and said her husband took about three steps before collapsing and saying, "I've been shot."
The man was fired at from a spot in the woods lining the restaurant's parking lot in Ashland, about 15 miles north of Richmond and 85 miles south of Washington, D.C.
Saturday's attack marks the first to take place on a weekend and the first to happen well outside the D.C. metro area, meaning the shooter could be expanding the region he's targeting in his spree.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.