Special Reports

For victims' families, nothing will take away the pain, despair

Carlos Cruz felt no jubilation Thursday when he learned of the arrests in the deadly sniper shootings. He is too depressed, he said, too crushed by pain.

"It will always be difficult. I will always be grieving," Cruz said. "Nothing takes that away."

Cruz's wife, Sarah Ramos, 34, was the fourth victim in the series of shootings that eventually claimed 10 lives and wounded three other people. She was killed on Oct. 3 while sitting on a bench in front of a restaurant in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Md. In that instant, the life Cruz and Ramos had built with their 7-year-old son was shattered.

For Cruz and other relatives of the victims, the news of Thursday's arrests brought a measure of relief. They're happy if the killings have stopped; they don't want another family to endure what they're going through. For the most part, they're grateful to police for their hard work in catching the suspects.

But nothing right now can erase the horror of their experience.

"Well, honestly, I'm glad they caught them, but it's not going to bring my father back to life," said Myrtha Cinada, whose father, Pascal Charlot of Washington, was the killer's sixth victim. The 72-year-old man, who cared for his invalid wife, was crossing a street when he was gunned down at 9:15 p.m. Oct. 3, the same day Ramos and three others died.

"I'm glad they caught them," Cinada repeated, "because this has to stop. People could not live anymore in this situation. It had to end."

The victims did not know one another. They apparently were randomly chosen. James L. "Sonny" Buchanan, 39, of Abingdon, Va., had traveled to Montgomery County, Md., to mow a friend's lawn when he was gunned down Oct. 3. Lori Lewis Rivera, 25, who also died Oct. 3, was a Silver Spring mother who had stopped to vacuum her minivan. Kenneth Bridges, 53, a father of six, was trying to get home to Philadelphia on Oct. 11 when he stopped in Virginia for gas. Linda Franklin, 47, an FBI analyst from Arlington, Va., was loading purchases into her car when she was slain Oct. 14 in a store parking garage.

Like other relatives, Bob Meyers said he has tried, and failed, to find any sense in the tragedy.

"It has been a challenge," said Meyers, whose brother, Dean Harold Meyers, 53, of Gaithersburg, Md., was fatally shot Oct. 9. "But a long time ago, we chose to trust God rather than question him. There was two inches between my brother being hit and not being hit. Who am I to question something like this?"

Meyers said it was useless to debate how many deaths might have been prevented had police established contact with the sniper sooner. In communications with police, the caller complained that five additional people had to die because he had failed in his attempts to get through to authorities.

"It appears there has been some great police work in the apprehension, but I understand there were some breaches early on, and some occurred before my brother's death," said Meyers, of Perkiomenville, Pa. "You can do this 'What if this, what if that' scenario, but we aren't going there. Nobody's perfect."

The family of a survivor, the 13-year-old boy who was shot Oct. 7 outside Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, Md., also was "very clearly relieved" at the arrests, said a family attorney.