Special Reports

Co-owner of Caprice cooperating in probe

FLINT, Mich. - The co-owner of the Chevrolet Caprice allegedly used in the Washington-area sniper attacks is cooperating with investigators, his lawyer said Sunday, after a federal magistrate ordered him held without bail and transferred to Maryland as an important witness in the case.

Nathaniel O. Osbourne, 26, appeared in U.S. District Court here before Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel Jr. He was arrested Saturday at his fiance's home in north Flint after authorities obtained a warrant naming him as a material witness.

He has not been implicated in the attacks but may have information that would aid in the prosecution of the two suspects, John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, officials said.

A law enforcement source said police do not believe Osbourne has any connection to the attacks. "We don't think he had any knowledge of the shootings, that he just helped him (Muhammad) buy the car for some kind of title purposes," the source said.

Osbourne, whose relationship with Muhammad is unclear, agreed to be listed as a co-owner on the car because he had auto insurance and Muhammad did not, according to a source familiar with the case.

"I don't think he has any appreciation for what he's in the middle of," said Ken Sasse, a federal public defender who represented Osbourne Sunday.

Osbourne and Muhammad are listed in motor vehicle records as co-owners of the 1990 Caprice, which was purchased Sept. 10 in Trenton, N.J., for $250. Authorities said the car was modified so the trunk could serve as a shooting platform in the attacks, which began Oct. 2, killed 10 people and wounded three in seven Washington area jurisdictions before Muhammad and Malvo were arrested Thursday.

Prosecutors argued the Jamaican-born Osbourne was a flight risk and Capel ordered him transferred to Maryland and held without bail.

Federal law enforcement officials returned to the home here Sunday and searched near the back of the house. They declined to say what they were looking for or whether they removed anything.

Osbourne was described by federal officials as a transient who has moved from state to state since arriving in the United States from Jamaica in 1996. He was charged with domestic violence in New Jersey last May and owes $8,000 to an Indianapolis automotive school, officials said. He arrived in Flint last week.

Neither Muhammad nor Malvo is cooperating with law enforcement interrogators, sources said.

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