ANNAPOLIS – As the reward fund for the arrest and indictment of the Washington area’s serial sniper continues to soar, funds for victim families are conspicuously lacking.
The marksman, operating in Montgomery County, the District of Columbia and Fredricksburg, Va., has gunned down eight people, killing six in just a week.
Just one fund, for a single victim in Montgomery County, is being organized, according to authorities involved in the case.
The lack of victim compensation is odd, given the history of local tragedies.
After last year’s terrorist attacks, the first of several funds for victims’ families was organized on Sept. 11. Just three days later, the United Way and New York Community Trust to Provide Relief to Victims and Their Families had hit $60 million.
On Sept. 24, 2001, a tornado struck the University of Maryland at College Park, killing two students. The next day, the University of Maryland College Park Foundation/Tornado Victims Fund was set up by the university.
Adrienne Jackson, principal of Burnt Mills Elementary in Silver Spring, said her school had begun to set up a fund for a student’s parent who was killed.
The parent, Sarah Ramos, 34, of Silver Spring, was shot at 8:37 a.m. Oct. 3 at the Leisure World Plaza in front of the post office, 3801 International Drive. Ramos was sitting on a bench, according to Joyce Utter, Montgomery County Police public information officer.
In Prince George’s County, where a 13-year-old boy was shot and critically injured Monday while entering his Bowie middle school, education officials said they provided emotional support and psychological counseling, according to Athena Ware, Prince George’s County Schools spokeswoman.
The boy may need home schooling and aid in his recovery. However, individual funds have not been set up, said Ware.
“The family has not asked for that kind of assistance,” said Ware. “Nobody has asked for medical help. The family might not need the assistance. Certainly if anybody wants (us) to be supportive we’ll be supportive. We haven’t got any indication of victim’s funding setup.”
Meanwhile, the reward fund designed to enlist the public in catching the killer has grown to $235,500, and a California businessman has talked of getting it up to $1 million.
The county established the fund with $50,000. The Victim Rights Organization contributed $10,000 and the state kicked in $100,000. Another $3,500 came from the law firm of Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker and David Yancey, a Virginia resident, gave $5,000. An out-of-state anonymous donor contributed $17,000.
The largest individual donation, $50,000, came from Tim L. Blixseth of the Blixseth Group Inc. in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and Big Sky, Mont.
Speaking on NBC’s Today show, Mr. Blixseth suggested the reward be capped at $1 million, with any additional money going to victim families.
Blixseth told Capital News Service that once the boy in Bowie was shot, the line had been crossed, and he wanted to do something to help the families. If the person is captured without public help, all the money should go to victims, he said.
Contributions to the reward fund may be to the Montgomery County Reward Fund at the Offices of the County Executive, 101 Monroe St., Rockville, MD 20850. – 30 – CNS-10-9-02