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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Spokesperson for Suspect's Ex-Wife Gives Press Conference

Aired October 24, 2002 - 13:18   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get back to our continuing coverage of the sniper. Live to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We expect to hear from Carol Williams, formerly married to one of the suspects arrested today, John Allen Muhammad -- Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... contacted by law enforcement authorities and have cooperated completely. She has been requested by them not to make any statements at this time about the particulars of this case, and she has no desire to do anything that would hamper the investigation. Prior to the authorities contacting her last night, she had no idea or indication that Mr. Williams was in any way connected with the occurrence in the Maryland and Virginia area.

Once law enforcement indicates it would no longer hamper the investigation, Mrs. Williams will be in a position to make statements and answer questions. Until that time, we request the press please understand that the occurrences come as a shock to the family and they need time to gather their thoughts and complete any further cooperation need by law enforcement.

QUESTION: How is the son doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone is shocked and trying to adjust to the thought that someone they know might be involved in these occurrences.

QUESTION: How long ago did they get divorced?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The divorce was over 10 years ago and no, it's only been sporadic contact.

QUESTION: We're told July meeting was out of the blue, is that true, that he just kind of popped up here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's my understanding.

I don't have that information. As everyone knows, this came up all of a sudden. I'm represent the family, but I was only contacted this morning, so there was only much I've been able to gather in this short period of time. We didn't want to keep you waiting thinking that she would be able to talk. Once she indicated to me that the law enforcement had asked her not to speak, then that was my advice to her, that she wait until they gave her the OK to say something.

QUESTION: Was he born in Baton Rouge? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's my understanding, but I do not know.

QUESTION: Did you recognize this photo on TV, or anything like that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once the photo was shown, I think she knew.

QUESTION: Could you reiterate for us? The FBI asked her not to talk?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. She spoke with law enforcement authorities, and they indicated that it would be better if she didn't talk at this time.

QUESTION: We don't want to talk about that; we want to know just about who he is, what he did in baton rouge, that's why we're all here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I understand He's from this area. She's not in any condition to talk at this time. I understand that you talked with other family members, and they have some information they're not as close to the situation. I guess she not in any condition to talk to the press.

QUESTION: When did he become a Muslim?

QUESTION: How is she handling this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's in shock, like anyone would be if this came up in the middle of the night last night. You know, you go about your daily routine and you hear about things that are occurring, horrible things in another place, and then all of a sudden, it all converges on your doorstep. So I think that anybody would kind of be in shock.

QUESTION: What investigative agencies have talked to her, and what have they told her or asked her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, she's been contacted by the federal authorities but what they've told her and asked her, I wouldn't be in a position to relay that.

QUESTION: Have you had any contact with her at all since the last time he was here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

QUESTION: Is the son still here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Early 20s.

QUESTION: Does her son live here?

QUESTION: When the federal authorities first contact her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was on yesterday.

Thank you.

QUESTION: We need to spell your name. Gail -- G-A-I-L...

QUESTION: You're an attorney in baton rouge?

QUESTION: Are you with a firm? Private practice?

O'BRIEN: We have been listening to an attorney representing Carol Williams. The dateline on this one is Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Carol Williams up until about 17 years ago, we're told, was married to a man who at that time was known as John Allen Williams.

Today, he has changed his name to John Allen Muhammad. We believe that happened within the past year. He is now under arrest, being interrogated with authorities in connection with the D.C. sniper case. He's 42 years old, has a military background, stationed in Washington -- Fort Lewis, Washington, in the '80s, and Gulf War veteran, would have no sniper training, but of course, had military training that anybody in the U.S. Army would get and familiarity with weaponry, and certainly the type of riflery that is linked to this sniper case.

We will keep trying to get you more details on him and his stepson, John Lee Malvo, 17 years old, described as a Jamaican citizen. The Immigration and Naturalization Service says it has no record of him having a visa to be in the United States.

Let's turn it back to Washington, and who do we have in Washington? I'm sorry, we're going to Washington State, James Hattori, a lot of Washingtons, a lot of Montgomeries here, James Hattori. Thanks for helping us out here and keeping it straight.

He's joining us from the neighborhood. where at one time Muhammad and his stepson lived. Can you paint a fuller picture, if you will, of this person?

JAMES HATTORI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me first start with something we've just developed, some information. CNN has learned that a restraining order was filed here in Tacoma against John Allen Williams, at that time he name was, in February and March of 2000. Court documents were filed by his ex-wife Mildred, most recent ex-wife Mildred. The restraining order was granted in March of 2000. At the time, she was quoted as saying, I'm afraid of John. He was a demolitions expert. She also was quoted as saying that John came over, he was not going to let me raise my children.

Also, Mrs. Williams at that time, February 9th of 2000, is reported to have called the 911 emergency line here in Tacoma or Pierce County after Mr. Williams or Mr. Muhammad attempted to force entry into her home.

Now, she at that time had three children, by the way, aged 10, 8 and 6. This is a Mildred Williams, Mr. Williams' Mr. Muhammad's most recent ex-wife here in Tacoma. Now, the search, obviously, was a center attention yesterday at this house. FBI agents confiscated a great deal of evidence, including at least one tree stump which was believed to be used for target practice, perhaps. Law enforcement officials have told CNN that they were looking for evidence, specifically bullet fragments or perhaps shell casings. That evidence was hauled away and is presumably being scrutinized very closely today.

At the same time, up in Bellingham, Washington, which is perhaps 90 miles north of Seattle, two or three hours drive perhaps from here, FBI agents were also paying a visit to Bellingham High School, where Mr. Muhammad's stepson John Lee Malvo was a student. Officials this morning confirmed he was student for a brief time. They described him as an unexceptional student, did not stand out in the crowd. He spent a lot of time in the library, and they confirmed that he was living in temporary housing, did not know a lot of information about them, was not there all that long.

Wolf -- rather, Miles, back to you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. James Hattori in Tacoma, Washington. We appreciate it.

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