On Thursday, Oct. 3, Washington correspondent Pat Wingert was at her desk when cable-TV news started reporting a string of deadly shootings in Montgomery County, Md. A former courts reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, Pat immediately grabbed a notebook and started covering the story. For the next three weeks, she stayed on the case--all the while worrying about the safety of her three kids, two of whom were in "lockdown" at schools near the Maryland border. Last week, when the suspected snipers were finally arrested, her 6-year-old son, Jack, asked, "Did they catch the bad man?" Yes, his relieved mom replied. "So I'm playing soccer on Saturday?" Jack said.
From the very beginning, NEWSWEEK's coverage of the most deadly serial-crime case in a decade has been a remarkable team effort. On the ground, Wingert was joined by T. Trent Gegax and Suzanne Smalley, who worked police contacts made during the Chandra Levy story to break exclusive details of a law-enforcement-strategy meeting. Michael Isikoff, Mark Hosenball and Daniel Klaidman tracked the federal investigation, collectively drawing on decades of experience covering the FBI. Looking back through a dog-eared notebook, Klaidman found the name of one source who even-tually confirmed that the FBI had wired $100,000 to a bank account in response to the snipers' demands.
As the authorities began to close in on the suspects, Andrew Murr and Ana Figueroa traveled to their former home in Washington state, and Arian Campo-Flores scrambled to Montgomery, Ala., apparently the scene of the first shooting. And once we learned the identities of John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, Kevin Peraino and Catharine Skipp went to explore their pasts in Jamaica and Antigua, while Anne Belli Gesalman headed to Muhammad's hometown of Baton Rouge, La., where she had an exclusive interview with a cousin who was one of the last relatives to see him.
Mark Miller oversaw the reporting, and Evan Thomas pulled it together into what we hope will be the most definitive account of this awful killing spree yet. Last Friday our reporters spent six hours double-checking their day-by-day, hour-by-hour time line of the crime and the investigation. When we called a Justice Department source to check it, he said NEWSWEEK was ahead of the Feds, who were still trying to figure out exactly what happened and when.