THERE was a time 10 years ago this month when most Columbus residents felt distanced from what was happening in the suburbs around Washington, D.C.
It wasn’t a heartless disengagement. One could not help but feel a sense of shock and even fear at the drumbeat of news reports: “Sniper claims victim in Maryland” ... “City in panic after reports of another sniper victim” ... “Residents staying inside out of fear of being shot.”
Before it was over, the sniper attacks claimed 10 victims in the Washington area. The victims were chosen at random, and they were killed while going about normal routines of life — pumping gas into their car, loading purchases into the trunk of their vehicle, standing on a street corner waiting for a bus.
Here in Columbus, people could only sympathize with those living in the Washington area and perhaps mouth a silent “Thank goodness we’re so far away from all that.”
Then the sniper attacks came home to Columbus. It happened in the parking lot of a Home Depot store near Arlington, Va. A woman and her husband were loading their purchases into the trunk of their car when a rifle shot rang out. The woman fell to the ground, mortally wounded.
Her name was Linda Franklin, and at the time of her death she had been working as an analyst with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
It was on the day after the shooting that Columbus residents were told about their link to the sniper killings. Franklin was born and spent her early childhood in Columbus. Her father, Charles Moore, was a 1947 graduate of Columbus High School and worked for the former CP Electronics on State Street in the 1950s until the family moved to Bloomington in 1962. Her mother, the former Mary Ann Reno, was a Columbus native.
We’re approaching the 10th anniversary of that tragic night in the parking lot of a store hundreds of miles from Columbus. Franklin died Oct. 14, 2002. It still hurts, especially for those who had been close to her.
Moore does not need to be reminded of the anniversary. The 83-year-old lives with his daughter’s inexplicable death every day. Unfortunately he was given such a reminder earlier this month from an unlikely source — Lee Malvo, one of two men convicted of committing the attacks.
Malvo was 17 years old at the time and contended that his actions were the result of manipulation by an older “mentor,” John Allen Muhammed. Muhammed was executed for his role, while Malvo was given a life sentence without possibility of parole.
As the 10th anniversary of the attacks approached, the killer granted an interview to The Washington Post. In it he expressed remorse for his role in the killings, but he went further and specifically addressed the shooting of Franklin and the turmoil it caused.
He described looking at the face of Linda’s husband, Ted, moments after the shooting. “It is the worst sort of pain I had ever seen in my life,” Malvo told the Post. “His eyes ... words do not possess the depth in which to fully convey that emotion and what I felt when I saw it. ... You feel like the worst piece of scum on the planet.”
The killer even offered advice for the families of his victims. “There’s nothing that I can say except don’t allow me and my actions to continue to victimize you for the rest of your life.”
Moore, who returned to Columbus a few years after his daughter’s death but eventually moved back to Florida, did not buy into the killer’s remorse. Informed about Malvo’s comments, he told a reporter for The Associated Press that he believes his daughter’s murder contributed to his wife Mary Ann’s death a few years later.
“What he did just destroyed my family,” he said. “I’ll never be able to put it aside. Never. There are things that stand out in your life that you think about. I’m 83 years old, and I’ll carry it to my grave.”
Fortunately, there are good memories that go along with his grief. They are memories of a daughter who early on showed an independent spirit. In her 20s, divorced and raising two children, she elected to enroll in college. At the time her father told her that he couldn’t help her much financially. “I don’t want you to,” she answered. “I’m going to do this myself.”
She pursued a number of careers but eventually settled into one where she felt at home. She became an analyst with the FBI.
Along the way she had to overcome some personal obstacles. Shortly before she was killed, doctors had given her a clean bill of health after battling breast cancer.
Moore had used his daughter’s experiences with the FBI to model characters in a book that was published after her death, “Agent by Default.” He remembers one of the last times he visited with her and they discussed the book. “I remember that she laughed and said, ‘Well, it sure reads like fiction.’”
I don’t know that Charlie Moore will ever be able to overcome his anger. He has some good ammunition to fight it: memories of a daughter he loved.
Harry McCawley is associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5620 or email at email@example.com.