Sniper Material Witness Agrees to Cooperate

The man who co-owned the blue Chevrolet Caprice believed to have been used in the Washington-area sniper attacks appeared in court Sunday and is fully cooperating with federal authorities, his attorney said.

"I don't think he has any knowledge or involvement in the shootings," federal defender Kenneth R. Sasse said after the hearing.

He said investigators already had questioned his client, Nathaniel O. Osbourne, at length.

Osbourne, 26, waived his right to a detention hearing in Michigan, where he was arrested Saturday, and agreed to be moved to federal custody in Maryland. Sasse said he expected U.S. marshals to take Osbourne to Maryland in the next three days.

The Jamaican citizen, described as a friend of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad, is wanted for questioning as a material witness in the attacks that left 10 people dead and three critically wounded over three weeks in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Officials said he is not suspected of carrying out any of the attacks.

Osbourne entered the United States in 1996 and had been living in New Jersey, though officials said Sunday that they were unsure of his visa status.

Why Osbourne was in Michigan, how long he had been there and how authorities tracked him to the Flint residence where he was arrested was unclear. The affidavit for Osbourne's arrest, which would give authorities' reasons for holding him, was sealed.

The Rev. Charlie Byrd, who said he owns the home where Osbourne was arrested and lives nearby, said Osbourne was visiting a woman who lives in there and was considering marrying her. He said the couple came to him Wednesday briefly for counseling.

The arrest came as Maryland prosecutors filed the first murder charges against Muhammad and teenager John Lee Malvo in the 13 sniper attacks that had terrorized the Washington area. Prosecutors in Virginia said Saturday that they would also file murder charges against the two suspects.

Osbourne, whose last known address was in Camden, N.J., was believed to have helped Muhammad buy the blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice in which Muhammad and Malvo were arrested last week. The car was purchased for $250 from Sure Shot Auto Sales Inc. in Trenton, N.J., on Sept. 10, and Muhammad and Osbourne registered it the next day.

Authorities say a hole had been cut in the trunk from which someone could have fired on unsuspecting victims.

Muhammad got the car's title and registration on the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, said Edmond Bonnette, the agent in charge of the Camden, N.J., motor vehicle office. Osbourne and Muhammad had listed the same New Jersey address.

Muhammad, 41, and Malvo, believed to be 17, were arrested Thursday as they slept in the car rest stop near Frederick, Md. Malvo was born in Kingston, Jamaica, where he was also known as Lee Boyd Malvo, Jamaica's Foreign Ministry said.