|First Man to Spot Sniper Suspect's Car|
|Jan 6, 2006, 6:58 AM|
At 1:17 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, Whitney Donahue from Greencastle, Pa., made a nerve-racking call to 911 to report that he was parked near the sniper suspect's car. Police say he was the first to do so and that puts him in line for the $500,000 reward.
Donahue, a supermarket refrigeration specialist who works in the Maryland-Virginia region, was returning from the late shift early Thursday morning when he pulled into the Frederick County rest area alongside Interstate 70 in Maryland.
"When I pulled into the rest area and turned right to go into the car parking, there were only two vehicles in the lot at the time," Donahue told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "When I came up in, I said to myself that looks like a Caprice. When my headlights hit it I could tell it was dark blue with a [New] Jersey tag.
Donahue said he knew right away that it was the car police were searching for. He had written the license plate number on the back of his time sheet when he heard it announced on WMAL-ABC Radio on his ride home from work.
"I picked up my personal cell phone and called 911," Donahue said. "I could hear them but they couldn't hear me and they hung up on me. I dialed it again and I had the same thing happen. By that time I was pretty nervous and had to use the restroom even worse than I did before," he said.
When Donahue returned from the restroom he moved his car around the corner from the Caprice, hoping the move would help his cell phone work.
Then he called 911 again on his company phone. The dispatcher he contacted asked him to check the plates again and the authorities began to close in. Donahue remained on the phone with the dispatcher for two hours and 45 minutes.
Worried and Waiting
He told the dispatcher that he was able to see that there was something in the car, but he couldn't tell if there was an outline of a person.
"I was in my van for most of it — very nervous," he said.
Prosecutors from Spotsylvania, Hanover and Prince William counties in Virginia joined Maryland's Montgomery County in filing charges against suspects John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo in the sniper shootings that terrorized the area for three weeks before the two were captured sleeping in the car at the highway rest area.
Muhammad and Malvo are expected to be indicted today on federal charges related to the sniper attacks in the Washington, D.C., area that left 10 dead and three wounded.
Donahue says his wife and kids were still sleeping when he returned from the frightening ordeal.
The reward was offered for information leading to the arrest and indictment of those responsible for the attacks. Montgomery County officials have yet to work out whether the reward could be shared by more than one individual offering vital information.
Truck driver Ron Lanz of Ludlow, Ky., called police from the rest stop near Frederick where the men were later arrested to tell them about the Caprice. But officials say he was not the first to report it.