Beltway Snipers artifacts: An inside look (PHOTOS)

This 1990 blue Chevy Caprice had once been an undercover police car. John Allen Muhammad purchased it from an auction at "Sure Shot Auto" in New Jersey. A police investigator later found out Muhammad crawled inside the trunk to inspect it before making the purchase. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
Lee Boyd Malvo describes sitting in the drivers seat as a spotter while Muhammad shot at unwitting victims from the trunk or a nearby concealed spot. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
Muhammad and Malvo rigged this back seat so a shooter could crawl through it into the trunk. Once the sniper was in the "nest," it would be impossible for a passer-by to notice anything was amiss. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
A small hole cut into the back of the car allowed for the barrel of their stolen Bushmaster XM-15 rifle to fit through.
Ten people died in the D.C. region and three were gravely injured from shots fired from or near this car. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
An interior view of the trunk, showing how the shooter could crawl behind the rear seats to access the snipers nest. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
''This shows a lot of planning. A lot of effort went into their rampage,'' says Vanya Scott, registrar of the National Law Enforcement Museum. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
Police found a pair of brown gloves in the trunk, that provided an essential element to the snipers' tactics. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
The snipers would wedge the glove into the notch in the trunk and rest the rifle barrel on it. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
Police also found a can of spray paint. Museum registrar Vanya Scott shows how they painted the inside of the trunk to avoid any chance of an interior glare attracting attention. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund still has boxes of evidence to sort through for the exhibit. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
All of the artifacts were previously held by Prince William County Police, who turned them over to NLEOMF in July. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
A table of evidence that contributed to the convictions of Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad. Much of this was presented to the jurors of their trials. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
After shooting Paul LaRuffa of Southern Maryland, Malvo and Muhammad stole this laptop, which they used to house maps, routes and plans for their attacks. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
Investigators dusted it for fingerprints and treated it with chemicals to gather DNA evidence. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
The first communication between the snipers and police. Here, a death tarot card bears the writing "Call Me God." (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
On the back, the snipers' first demands of police. Montgomery County Police Chief Moose, head of the law enforcement task force and the public face of the investigation, says he communicated to the snipers in press conferences by using the word ''God.'' (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
This rifle round was in the chamber of the Bushmaster XM-15 Malvo and Muhammad used in their long-range shots. If they hadn't been caught, this round would likely have been used to kill yet another person in the region. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
A spreadsheet of information showing which law enforcement agency found each piece of evidence, to whom they gave it, and reference numbers. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
Scott observes that the evidence bags are as much a part of this law enforcement exhibit as their contents, in this case the death tarot card. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
Police were able to confirm Malvo's DNA on this snack bag. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
Malvo and Muhammad used this walkie-talkie to communicate during attacks. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
This chart shows the victims in the D.C. area. Police prepared it to show to the juries that convicted Muhammad and Malvo. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
This chart shows other victims. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
A map of the attacks, prepared for the jury. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
A diagram of how the snipers toko their shots. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
More diagrams of the vehicle. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
The rest of the organization's artifacts. In total, the National Law Enforcement Museum will have access to more than 16,000 artifacts from law enforcement history, dating back as far ast he 1700s. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
Intern Daniel Cruz helps document the boxes of evidence. ''Law enforcement really comes down to family. It's a family business,'' he says. Cruz' grandfather was the Maryland State Police lieutenant who led the police assault on the rest area where Malvo and Muhammad were sleeping. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)

Paul D. Shinkman,

FORESTVILLE, Md. – John Allen Muhammad is dead and Lee Boyd Malvo will spend the rest of his life in prison, but the lasting effects of the Beltway Snipers, who held the region hostage in October 2002, are anything but concluded.

The spate of killings that captured national attention are still under analysis as law enforcement officials hone techniques to prevent such a spree from happening again.

WTOP got an advanced look at the evidence used to convict the killers, including the vehicle they used as a rolling sniper nest, cryptic messages to police, the tools they used to communicate with one another, maps, bullets and their choice of snacks.

The artifacts are currently held at a nondescript warehouse in Forestville, Md., by museum specialist ELY, Inc.

Check out the gallery at right for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Beltway Snipers artifacts.

Each of these clues initially proved to be an enigma for law enforcement officials. For example, they had no way to trace the DNA found on the Dole CinnaRaisins bag found after the shooting at Benjamin Tasker Middle School because Lee Boyd Malvo didn’t have a police record yet.

Tarot death cards ordering police to “Call Me God” didn’t make sense at first, nor did the vehicle they used — an inconspicuous blue sedan that had previously been an undercover cop car in New Jersey.

When added together, however, and paired with an extraordinary public response, a law enforcement team eventually caught up with Muhammad and Malvo at a rest stop off Interstate 70 and ended their “reign of terror.”

That’s how Vanya Scott describes those three weeks in October 2002, while she was working as a museum curator in Kansas. Now she is the registrar for the National Law Enforcement Museum, scheduled to open its inaugural facility in Judiciary Square in 2015, which will house the snipers exhibit.

“These men held the people of the Washington D.C. region hostage with fear, and changed the course of their daily lives,” she tells WTOP. “It was just such a powerful thing they did, and kind of amazing two men were able to control the population that way.”

“It’s the randomness of it. Even though it was so well planned,” says Scott.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which established the museum, received the collection of crime artifacts from the Prince William County Police in July. It’s now tasked with organizing the artifacts and determining how they will be presented to the public as one of the museum’s first exhibits.

Intern Daniel Cruz is a criminology student at the University of Maryland and helps document the evidence.

“It’s hard to piece all this together, even now,” Cruz says, looking at the shelves of boxes that still need to be cataloged.

“We all wish we could have caught (the snipers) on day one, but they started from nothing,” he says of the law enforcement efforts. “It’s awesome to help put this together so the public understands that.”

Working on the exhibit is a personal endeavor for Cruz. He attended Watkins Middle School in Montgomery County as a 5th-grader while the attacks took place nearby. He recalls the permeating “emotional background” everyone felt, including his parents who for the first time let him see their fear.

If that weren’t enough, his grandfather is David Reichenbaugh, a retired Maryland State Police lieutenant who led the assault on the rest stop parking lot off Interstate 70 where the snipers were sleeping in their car.

“It sounded more like a movie when he says it,” Cruz says, turning to the table of evidence.

“To see this come to life scares me.”

The Beltway Snipers exhibit will be among the first at the new National Law Enforcement Museum, and will be on display in 2015 or 2016. Learn more at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Follow Paul and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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