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Originally published November 12, 2009 at 12:11 AM | Page modified November 12, 2009 at 1:01 AM

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Medina man started reward fund in sniper attacks

Tim Blixseth didn't know anyone in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area when a sniper shot and killed 10 people in the fall of 2002. But that didn't stop him from offering a $150,000 reward for the capture of those responsible for the killings.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Tim Blixseth didn't know anyone in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area when a sniper shot and killed 10 people in the fall of 2002.

But that didn't stop him from offering a $150,000 reward for the capture of those responsible. His offer started a fund that grew to a half-million dollars before John Allen Muhammad and his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, were captured when their car was spotted in a Maryland rest area.

Blixseth, a wealthy timber executive and real-estate investor who lives in Medina, said he saw a news report that a child had been shot by the sniper "and I said that's enough of this stuff. I called the county supervisor and said I wanted to start a fund to catch these guys."

Eventually, said Blixseth, an Oregon native, he contributed about $250,000 to the fund.

Muhammad was executed in Virginia Tuesday for the slaying of Dean Harold Meyers at a gas station during the three-week spree in 2002 across Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Muhammad and Malvo also were suspected of fatal shootings in other states, including Washington, Louisiana, Alabama and Arizona. Malvo is serving a life sentence.

Blixseth has mixed emotions about Muhammad's execution.

"There's no joy in another life lost," he said. "I suppose there is justice in executing him, but I'm a little bit on the fence whether it's the right or wrong thing to do. I'm not sure if it's not worse to spend your life in jail."

He said he attended a news conference after Muhammad and Malvo were captured and victims of the shootings came up and thanked him for providing the reward money.

"This horrible tragedy touched the hearts of Americans everywhere," Blixseth says. "Average Americans, rich and poor, gave what they could to help out. It's true that the tougher it gets for Americans, the tougher they get.

"Fortunately, John Muhammad and Lee Malvo can never terrorize our communities again," Blixseth said.

He said he was amazed at the outpouring his donation started. He said he took a taxi in Los Angeles and a cabdriver said he didn't have much money but gave him $5 toward the reward.

"My thoughts were then, and they are now, is that I was a cheerleader. A cheerleader with a checkbook," he said. "My whole goal was not just to catch these guys but to get people to help out."

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The reward money was shared by Robert Holmes of Tacoma, who reported that Muhammad and Malvo had been using a tree stump for target practice in the back yard of Muhammad's Tacoma house, and Whitney Donahue of Pennsylvania, who spotted Muhammad and Malvo's car at the Maryland rest stop.

Blixseth said he hasn't met either man. What's important, he said, is showing that Americans were willing to donate reward money to catch the killers.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com


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