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Suspects Face Alabama Death Penalty

Prosecutors in Alabama plan to charge Beltway Sniper suspects John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo with capital murder, and they intend to ask for the death penalty.

Muhammad, 41, and his 17-year-old sidekick will be charged with killing a woman in a Montgomery, Ala., liquor store on Sept. 21, Police Chief John Wilson said Friday.

An officer who saw the shooting suspect "made no hesitation whatsoever" when presented with a photo of Muhammad as part of a photo lineup, Wilson said. Authorities had said earlier that Malvo's fingerprints were found at the scene.

Liquor store worker Claudine Parker, 52, was killed in the holdup, and another woman was wounded.

"We intend to aggressively pursue the death penalty in our case," Wilson said.

"We want to send a very strong message to not only this community and this state but the country that this is not the kind of conduct, this is not what we expect of civilized society.

"We're going to make an example of somebody."

Wilson said Muhammad is accused of killing the clerk outside the store as it closed Sept. 21, and Malvo is being charged as an accomplice.

An officer who heard gunshots that night chased a man fleeing the liquor store shootings, at one point coming within a couple of feet of him, and helped provide a composite sketch, authorities had said.

Police had earlier indicated they thought Malvo was the man in the sketch. But Wilson said at Friday's news conference that Muhammad is now believed to be the man who was chased by the policeman.

He said the officer had not been allowed to see any of the news media accounts and photographs of Muhammad and Malvo before being asked to pick out the man he saw.

Another witness tentatively identified Malvo as being at a gas station near the liquor store, Wilson said, and a third witness may have seen at least one of the men.

The unidentified officer was parked across the street from the store and heard the gunshots that killed Parker and wounded co-worker Kellie Adams, 24, as they were locking up, Wilson said. But the gunman managed to outrun the officer.

Wilson didn't fault the officer, who he said considered shooting the gunman but decided against it.

"He's looking at a fleeing suspect who's not a threat to him, and he was not fully aware of what had transpired" at the shooting scene behind him, Wilson said Thursday night. "The officer feels just as bad about not catching the suspect for the crime here as anything else."

As evidence linking the crimes emerged, police recounted how the officer giving chase on foot was only a couple of feet away from the gunman, but couldn't capture him.

Adams, still recovering Thursday from her injuries, said she never lost consciousness after being shot and remembers seeing a slender black man standing over her, but that she only saw him from the waist down.

"He must have been an excellent marksman because he was able to turn around and shoot Claudine in the back," Adams said.

Wilson said he had no reason to believe the gunman had any connection to Montgomery other than just passing through, but an investigation was continuing.

Mayor Bobby Bright said Malvo's fingerprint was found on a weapons publication in a parking lot outside the liquor store.

A member of Parker's family said officers could have done more to stop the killer, possibly avoiding the sniper shootings that followed. "I wonder why they didn't shoot him in the foot or something," said sister-in-law Odean Lee of Seattle.

After Malvo's fingerprint was connected to the Montgomery killing, authorities traced Malvo to a home in Tacoma, Wash., where Muhammad is believed to have once lived and which authorities searched Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.