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Sniper probe to messenger: 'Call us back'

Sources: Letter contained threat

Moose delivers his third message through the media to an unknown person who may have information about the shootings.
Moose delivers his third message through the media to an unknown person who may have information about the shootings.

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Police Chief Charles Moose of Montgomery County, Maryland, says the caller's original message was unclear (October 21)
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Federal law enforcement sources say there is no evidence linking two men picked up at a Richmond, Virginia, gas station, to the sniper attacks. CNN's Gary Tuchman reports (October 21)
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• Story: D.C. area victims
Tip line:
$500,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people involved in the shootings.
Write-in tips:
P.O. Box 7875
Gaithersburg, Maryland
Reward contribution line:

Suspect vehicles:
White Chevrolet Astro-type minivan with a ladder rack on its roof; Ford Econoline van with a ladder rack on its roof; white box-type truck

RICHMOND, Virginia (CNN) -- The man leading the investigation into the Washington-area shootings issued a new plea Monday to the person who called police with a sniper-related message.

"The person you called could not hear everything that you said. The audio was unclear and we want to get it right. Call us back so that we can clearly understand," said Montgomery County, Maryland, Police Chief Charles Moose.

The chief said getting that message out was the most important thing he had to do Monday afternoon. He asked the media to "carry the message often."

He would not elaborate, saying to do so "would be inappropriate and detrimental to our investigation."

Earlier Monday, police spokeswoman Lucille Baur called the situation "very fluid."

"We're in a very sensitive stage in the investigation," she said.

It was the third statement from Moose in two days in which he has tried to communicate with the messenger about the sniper blamed in the killings of nine people and wounding of three others in the Washington area since October 2.

Moose first sought contact Sunday after a handwritten note was found behind the Ponderosa Steakhouse where the latest sniper victim was shot Saturday. Moose addressed that plea to "the person who left us a message at the Ponderosa."

The note "hinted at a demand for money" and threatened "more killing," law enforcement sources said Monday.

Sources said investigators found the note after a caller to the sniper tip line indicated there was a note for police in the woods near the restaurant. Sources said the caller was a man with "an accent of unknown origin."

The sources would not elaborate on the specific language used in the letter, which is undergoing analysis at an FBI lab for DNA, handwriting and other details that might help determine who wrote it. They said they were working under the assumption that it is from the sniper.

The sources said authorities were comparing the letter and the handwriting to a message on a tarot card found near a middle school in Bowie, Maryland, where a 13-year-old boy was critically wounded October 7. That message said, "I am God."

The handwriting, at least initially, did not appear to match, the sources said.

Two men detained

Authorities took two men into custody Monday morning near the area where the tipster's phone call originated in Richmond and questioned them as part of the sniper shootings probe. The area had been under surveillance.

One man was in a white van parked at a pay telephone at an Exxon gas station. The other was at another nearby location.

Neither man was charged with a crime. Federal law enforcement sources said no evidence was found linking either man to the shootings.

They described the men as undocumented workers -- one Mexican and one Guatemalan -- who may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

After searches of the van and the undisclosed location where the second man was picked up failed to produce any evidence, they were turned over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service and will be detained until placed in removal hearings.

Victim's wife urges prayer

The latest shooting was linked to the other sniper cases after the bullet removed from the victim in surgery Monday morning was taken to a federal laboratory in Maryland for testing.

"The ballistics evidence uncovered during our investigation has been matched with the other shooting cases," said Hanover County Sheriff Stuart Cook.

Saturday's victim, described as 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, had just dined with his wife before he was gunned down with a single shot. He remained in critical but stable condition Monday at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.

His wife issued a statement Monday urging well-wishers to continue praying for her husband as well as "for the attacker and also that no one else is hurt." (Full story)

Other developments

•Funeral services were held Monday for the victim most recently killed in the series of shootings. Linda Franklin, 47, of Arlington, Virginia, was gunned down October 14 in a shopping center parking garage in nearby Falls Church. (Full story)

•Public schools in 10 area districts will be closed Tuesday, officials announced Monday. They include schools in the cities of Richmond, Petersburg, Hopewell and Colonial Heights, and in the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, Goochland, Dinwiddie and Prince George. Five of those districts also were shut down Monday -- affecting about 150,000 students -- because of parental and community concern following Saturday's shooting in Ashland, north of Richmond.

•The man charged with giving false information to police after Franklin's shooting was arraigned Monday in Fairfax County and denied bond. Matthew Dowdy, 37, claimed to have seen a man with a gun just before the shooting and told police he saw a cream-colored van with a malfunctioning taillight. If convicted, he faces up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine. (Full story)

•The Marine Corps Monday canceled its annual worldwide "scout-sniper" competition that was to have taken place through October 26 at the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia, south of Washington. A Marine Corps spokesman said the decision was made to cancel the event because "at this time it would be inappropriate to hold such a competition in a region where sensitivities to sniper activity are taking place around us."

-- CNN correspondents Kelli Arena, Jason Carroll, Patty Davis and Jeanne Meserve, and producer Mike Ahlers contributed to this report.

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