Reward in sniper case to be shared
MATTHEW MOSK AND JOSH WHITE; The Washington Post
Officials have decided to divide the $500,000 reward in the Washington, D.C.-area sniper case between two recipients, a Tacoma man who was the first to identify John Allen Muhammad as a suspect, and a driver who directed police to Muhammad's car at a rural Maryland rest stop, where he and Lee Boyd Malvo were arrested.
Montgomery County, Md., Executive Douglas Duncan said he plans to announce today that $350,000 will go to Robert Holmes, 47, who tipped the FBI during the October 2002 sniper manhunt that he suspected that his friend Muhammad was the shooter. Duncan said $150,000 will be given to Whitney Donahue, 38, of Greencastle, Pa., who spotted Muhammad's Chevrolet Caprice in a Frederick County, Md., rest area after hearing a news report that sniper investigators were searching for the vehicle.
The two were selected from among more than 60,000 tipsters who called authorities during the three-week series of shootings, which killed 10 people, wounded three and spread fear and disruption across the Washington region. Muhammad, 43, has been sentenced to death in Virginia for one of the killings, and Malvo, 19, convicted in another of the slayings, is serving a life term in Virginia without the possibility of parole.
A committee made up of representatives of eight local and federal law enforcement agencies voted unanimously Wednesday to give the $500,000 to Holmes and Donahue. In Montgomery County, where six of the victims were slain, officials seeded the reward fund with $50,000 in public money during the manhunt, and the rest came from private donors before the arrests. Duncan's office is custodian of the fund.
On Friday, Holmes and Donahue, who had not been officially notified of the distribution decision, said they were satisfied with their rewards.
"I wish it had never happened, and it wasn't about the money," Holmes, an auto mechanic, said of his involvement in the sniper case. He served in the Army with Muhammad in the late 1980s and kept in touch with him afterward. He said he considers Muhammad a friend and wishes the attacks had never occurred so he would not have had to call the FBI.
"It wasn't a choice," Holmes said. "I don't feel like a hero. I feel I did what you or anyone else would have done in the same situation.
"I wish maybe I'd hit the lotto or something, but not like this," he said. "I'd rather see John come around with that big smile and laugh rather than him being on death row. "
On Oct. 17, 2002, a few days after the 11th Washington-area sniper victim was shot, Holmes called an FBI tip line and said he suspected the shooter was Muhammad. He had not seen his friend in months; he knew Muhammad was angry, obsessed with firearms and probably mentally unstable; and he knew that Muhammad detested his former wife, who was living near the nation's capital.