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Police Want to Talk More to Sniper-Case Caller

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Police Want to Talk More to Sniper-Case Caller

23 minutes ago

By Mark Wilkinson

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) - Police made a direct appeal to a caller involved in the investigation of the sniper shootings in Washington's suburbs on Monday as hopes of a break deflated on strong indications that two men briefly taken into custody were not directly related to the case.

"The person you called could not hear everything that you said; the audio was unclear and we want to get it right," Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose said at a televised news briefing, making clear he was sending a message.

"Call us back so that we can clearly understand," Moose said, speaking in Rockville, Maryland, where a task force investigating the case is based.

He gave no details on who the caller might be -- a tipster or even possibly the sniper -- or when the call was received. Moose disclosed on Sunday that police discovered a "message" at the scene of the latest shooting on Saturday night in Ashland, Virginia. He did not elaborate.

The sniper stalking the Washington region has killed nine people and critically wounded three since Oct. 2, pulling the trigger from some distance away and needing just a single bullet to hit his target. Most of the shootings have been in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs of the U.S. capital.

Earlier on Monday, two men were taken into custody in Richmond, Virginia, after the shooting of a 37-year-old man in nearby Ashland. Their detentions raised hopes of a break in the case that has terrorized the area.

By late afternoon, the two -- a Mexican and a Guatemalan -- were being transferred to custody of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service for deportation proceedings for immigration violations, according to an INS spokesman.

The INS transfer indicated the men were not related to the sniper case. A subsequent statement by the Henrico County Police Department said local authorities filed no charges against the men but shed no light on why they were taken into custody in the first place.

MESSAGE

The latest victim of the serial sniper was shot in a Ponderosa restaurant parking lot under circumstances similar to other shootings -- only one shot was fired, reportedly from the cover of woods and also near a highway.

The message was the second apparent communication from the gunman.

Moose revealed it on Sunday night with a brief televised statement: "To the person who left us a message at the Ponderosa last night, you gave us a telephone number. We do want to talk to you, call us at the number you provided."

The Washington Post reported on Monday that authorities believed the message was from the sniper, and NBC said the note was "very lengthy" and contained "detailed threats."

The Richmond Times-Dispatch said the note containing the phone number and "significant text" was found in the woods behind the restaurant. Contents were not disclosed.

The first apparent message from the sniper was found near the scene of a shooting that critically injured a 13-year-old boy outside his school in Prince George's County, Maryland, east of Washington.

The message in that incident was on a Tarot "Death" card directed to police, reading, "I am God."

The sniper's victims, from a variety of races and all walks of life, have been killed doing such everyday things as getting gasoline, loading purchases into a car and going to school.

The victim of Saturday's attack remained in critical condition on Monday after two surgeries, during which doctors recovered the bullet that ripped through his stomach, pancreas and spleen.

He was conscious and responding to his wife's voice by midday on Monday, Dr. Rao Ivatury said at a news conference at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals in Richmond.

"It's going to be a stormy course," said Ivatury.

A funeral service was held on Monday in Arlington, Virginia, for Linda Franklin, 47, the victim of the last fatal shooting linked to the sniper. Franklin was shot on Oct. 14 outside a Home Depot store in Falls Church, Virginia.

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