Tarot Card May Give Sniper Clues

ByABC News

B O W I E, Md., Oct. 9, 2002 -- A tarot card of death found near a suburban Maryland school where a boy was shot Monday could provide investigators with a valuable clue in their search for the serial sniper who has shot eight people in the past week.

Meanwhile, authorities in Virginia tonight are investigating a fatal shooting at a Sunoco gas station in Manassas, a suburb of Washington, D.C. No information was available on the victim's condition or if the shooting was connected to the string of sniper attacks.

Most of the attention today was on the discovery of the tarot card. The card, recovered in the woods approximately 150 yards away from school entrance, had a chilling message scrawled on it, which said, "Dear policeman, I am God."

Police did not say whether they thought the card was a hoax, or a genuine message from by the person (or persons) responsible for killing six people and wounding two others in a string of attacks that has terrorized Washington, D.C., and its suburbs in Maryland and Virginia.

Detectives were visiting magic and novelty stores to ask about people who had recently bought tarot cards, sources told ABCNEWS.

"They were just trying to see if I noticed anyone in particular that might have come in to buy tarot cards," said one store owner, Barry Taylor. "I didn't see anyone coming in here with camouflage paint and a rifle."

Police Chief: Stop the Leaks

In Maryland, Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose — who has been the public face of a team that includes local and state police as well as of the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the Secret Service — was angered that news of the tarot card had been leaked to reporters. He repeatedly lashed at the media today for potentially damaging the investigation.

Sources told ABCNEWS that Moose was particularly miffed because there was more written on the card than was reported, and FBI profilers believed the message could have led to a dialogue between the sniper and police. Moose, sources said, appeared to be trying to open a coded dialogue with the killer on Tuesday by making a reference to "God."

"But certainly, you should understand that I hope to God that someday we will know why all this occurred," Moose said at a news briefing.

The tarot card could signal a new stage in the case, if it is not a prank and was left by the killer. It could offer investigators new tools in their pursuit, giving them a hint as to the sniper's psychology and the potentially more concrete clue of handwriting and other evidence.

Moose said that he would talk with his officers about leaking information but would maintain the focus on finding the sniper.

Searching the Woods, Investigating Domestic Gunfire

As investigators examined the tarot card evidence, police also investigated a report of a shots fired in a home in Kensington, Md.

A woman called police at around 4 p.m. and told them her mentally disturbed son had fired a gun through his window. When police arrived at the scene, Moose said, they came upon the son as he was leaving the home. No one else was in the household, he said, and no one was injured.

Moose said police found bullet holes and other weapons in the household and were obtaining search warrants to confiscate and examine the weaponry. Police were questioning the man, who Moose said has had previous run-ins with law enforcement.

The man's mother, investigators said, he had been previously interviewed in connection with the sniper investigation. However, Moose did not call the man a suspect in the sniper attacks.

"Right now, it's just too early to tell [if he is a potential suspect]," Moose said.

Also today, police questioned a woman who may have dropped off a man with a long black bag near another suburban Maryland school this morning.

Police sealed off a wooded area of several hundred acres behind Friendly High School in Clinton, Md., after receiving a report of a suspicious-looking man entering the woods behind high school with a long black bag.

According to the witness, the man — described as a white male wearing a dark blue cap and a dark blue jacket — was dropped off by someone driving a dark blue car, possibly a Ford, and shortly after police closed off the area. A woman driving a car matching the description was stopped inside the cordoned area, Prince George's County Police Department spokeswoman Cpl. Diane Richardson said.

The woman was questioned for several hours, but was not taken into custody. Police called off the search after finding nothing in the woods.

"We feel confident that nobody is in there," Richardson said.

Reward Offer Rising

So far, authorities have received 1,700 credible leads from among the more than 8,500 calls that have come in since the shootings began. The reward for any information leading to the arrest and indictment of the individual or individuals responsible for the shootings is now $305,000

Contributions to the reward can be sent to Montgomery County Reward Fund, Office of the County Executive, 101 Monroe St., Rockville, MD 28050. Contributions also can be made by telephoning (240) 777-8970.

Anyone with information on the shootings is asked to call hotlines at (240) 777-2600 or 1-800-755-9424.

ABCNEWS' John Miller in Maryland, Barry Serafin in Washington and Dean Schabner contributed to this report.

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