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No word yet on sniper reward

October 31, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Greencastle resident Whitney Donahue decided to head out of town last weekend and is keeping his phone unplugged to avoid the constant barrage of calls to his residence that began when word got out he is in line for the $500,000 reward for helping locate the two Washington-area sniper suspects.

Donahue, 37, was on his way home from work Oct. 24 when he stopped at the Myersville, Md., rest area to stretch and wake himself up to finish the drive home from his Washington, D.C.,-area job.

He pulled his van into the parking lot and spotted the blue Chevrolet Caprice with New Jersey license plates that he had just heard described on his radio, Donahue said Wednesday.

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Donahue immediately dialed 911 on his cell phone.

"I called 911 and I could hear them, but they couldn't hear me and they hung up on me twice," he said.

Donahue decided to use the restroom before trying 911 again.

"I came out and was pretty nervous, and I wanted to make sure it was the right one, so I looked at the car again," he said.

He said it was too dark to tell if sniper suspects John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, were inside.

He spent much of the next few hours on the phone with 911 as the action unfolded.

Donahue said he arrived at the rest area at around 12:45 a.m., and he is not sure when his call to 911 finally went through.

A spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Police Department said she could not release the time of his or other 911 calls.

"We don't want to make public the times of the calls because the concept of the reward is so sensitive, we want to keep that information confidential," Lucille Baur said.

Baur also said the department is not close to determining who could receive the $500,000, and that has taken a back seat for the time being.

"We are still very much involved in gathering evidence as we move into the prosecutorial state. We're not focused on the reward at this point," she said.

Baur said the department received tens of thousands of calls, and it will take a while to determine if one person will receive the reward or if it will be split among several people.

That's why Donahue said he was waiting and trying his best to go about life normally, including working the second shift for Ingersoll Rand as a supermarket refrigeration service technician.

"Basically I know I am eligible for the reward. As far as anything else, they haven't called me," he said.

He said he has thought about what it would be like to receive the reward money, but he isn't making any plans.

Donahue said he first started getting phone calls Friday night from media who heard he was a tipster in line for the reward, so he said he and his wife Teresa and three children, ages 3, 9, and 11, left town for the weekend.

For most of the last week, Donahue said he's let the answering machine pick up the phone or it's been unplugged.

ABC's "Good Morning America" flew the Donahues to New York Monday and he appeared on Tuesday's program.

"I decided to go ahead and have a little fun with this," he said.

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