ROCKVILLE, Md. – Nearly a year after a rash of sniper shootings plunged the region into three weeks of fear, some 200 people, including family and friends of the victims, joined for a candlelight vigil and interfaith prayer service.
James Snow came to Wednesday night's memorial to mourn fellow bus driver Conrad Johnson (search), who was his "ace in the hole" — the kind of guy he could play ball with, talk about cars with and invite over for dinner.
Last Oct. 22 Johnson became the final victim of the Washington area sniper shootings.
"I'm so used to him calling me up and telling me when we're going to meet up. I truly miss that," Snow said.
Relatives of victims filled three rows in front of the stage. Some wept quietly as Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan slowly read of the names of the dead. They helped plant a Japanese red maple tree as a memorial.
Two who survived shootings were also among the families — Iran Brown (search), who was 13 when he was shot Oct. 7, 2002 outside a Bowie middle school, and a woman who was 43 when she was shot outside a store in Fredericksburg, Va., on Oct. 4.
Also with the group Wednesday was former Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose (search), the public face of the sniper investigation.
Bob Meyers read a letter about his brother Dean's passion for his 1966 Stingray Corvette, canoeing and family picnics on the Fourth of July. Dean Meyers was shot Oct. 9 in Manassas, Va., as he pumped gas. Deborah Cox read a poem for her brother, James "Sonny" Buchanan, who died Oct. 3 in Bethesda.
"This helps keep the memory of my husband alive," said Johnson's widow, Denise.
Even people who had no ties to the victims showed up for Wednesday night's memorial.
"They were everyday people doing everyday things," said Ed Clark. "It makes you appreciate your own life a little more."
The two sniper suspects, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, have been charged with 13 shootings, including 10 killings, over a three-week span last October in the Washington area. They are also suspected or charged with shootings in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Arizona and Washington state. Muhammad's trial is scheduled to start Oct. 14; Malvo's begins Nov. 10.
Earlier Wednesday, Malvo invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination when he was questioned at a hearing for Muhammad, 42. It was the first time the suspects had been brought together since their arrests Oct. 24, 2002 at a Maryland rest stop.
Malvo spent about five minutes on the witness stand and took the Fifth when he was asked about his relationship with Muhammad, who appeared to stare at Malvo throughout the questioning.
Defense lawyers had objected to Malvo, 18, coming to court. They said he could have asserted his Fifth Amendment rights through a written affidavit.