(Updates with information from 9 a.m. press conference in Montgomery, Ala.)
(CNSNews.com) - If police haven't arrested the snipers themselves -- and it sure looks like they have -- they've arrested two people who may know something important about the case.
Around 3:30 a.m. Thursday, police surrounded -- and arrested -- two "persons of interest" who were sleeping in a car (a older-model Caprice) at an I-70 rest stop west of Frederick, Md.
Sources tell reporters the men are 42-year-old John Allen Muhammad (formerly John Williams; he changed his name after becoming a Muslim); and 17-year-old Lee Malvo, whom Muhammad apparently calls his stepson. Malvo is from Jamaica, although he recently attended high school in Bellingham, Wash. They are black men, and as of 5 a.m., they were being questioned at an "undisclosed location" in Montgomery County.
Police had been on the lookout for the Caprice, and the area was cordoned off after a motorist at the I-70 rest stop saw it around 1 a.m. and called police, who quickly moved in.
It looks like investigators had been watching the men for several days, after someone in Montgomery, Ala., called police with information about a September shooting at a Montgomery liquor store that led them to zero in on Muhammad and Malvo.
Press reports indicated the case may hinge on a credit card, which has recently been used in the Washington area, according to press reports. Fox News said this was the same credit card number given to police by the sniper, when he demanded that $10 million be transfered to a credit card account.
Ballistics information will also be important. Mohammad recently lived in Tacoma, Washington, and on Wednesday, police seized a stump from the yard of his home. He reportedly used that stump for target practice.
Federal sources told the Seattle Times that Muhammad and Malvo "may have been motivated by anti-American sentiments in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Both were known to speak sympathetically about the men who attacked the United States, the sources said."
Wire reports say one of Muhammad's two ex-wives lives in Clinton, Md., and that explains the East Coast connection.
Press reports also say Muhammad was in the army until recently -- stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington, where sniper training is conducted. He is said to be a Gulf War veteran.
Federal investigators also are looking into Muhammad's possible association with a militia training camp in Marion, Ala., a camp called "Ground Zero."
Police earlier said Muhammad and Malvo should be considered armed and dangerous.
At a 9 a.m. press conference Thursday morning, John Wilson, the chief of the Montgomery, Ala., Police Department, said investigators from the Maryland task force called his department Sunday night, saying they had received information about a fatal shooting in Montgomery on Sept. 21.
On that date, at 7:30 in the evening, two women were shot while closing an ABC (liquor) store in Montgomery. One died, and the other was critically injured.
"As of this date we still are not clear exactly what the connection will be, if there is any connection at all" to the Washington-area sniper shootings," Wilson said. He said his department has been asked to send evidence gathered at the shooting scene to the Maryland task force.
Chief Wilson also said the killer did not take anything from the scene of the Alabama shootings, although he said a suspect was seen going through a woman's purse.
"There is no credit card connected to our crime scene here," Wilson said. "We've also heard that a note was left. There was no note left here. We do have some evidence that we do not want to get into great detail about, but a note and a credit card is not part of it."