Come Tuesday, John Allen Muhammad will walk, handcuffed and shackled, down the reinforced concrete tunnel that connects the Virginia Beach jail and the courthouse.
At the tunnel's end, he'll be led into a holding cell and then around 9:30 a.m., deputies will escort him into an elevator -- rising one, two, three floors -- and then through a back hallway into Circuit Courtroom No. 10.
Then one of the most anticipated trials in the country will begin.
Virginia Beach officials have prepared for this moment for more than two months, allocating money, beefing up security and coordinating an elaborate plan to handle the horde of media that is now descending upon the city.
"We know that all eyes of the world will be on this portion of Virginia," Mayor Meyera Oberndorf said during a recent media briefing. "We're a little nervous about it."
This week marks the start of the first trial of the two men accused of terrorizing the Washington, D.C., area a year ago. Muhammad, 42, and 18-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo are charged in 13 sniper-style shootings that left 10 people dead during a three-week spree in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Both Muhammad and Malvo face the death penalty.
In a trial expected to last six to eight weeks, Muhammad will face charges that he killed Dean Meyers while the 53-year-old was pumping gas at a Sunoco station in Manassas on Oct. 9, 2002. The trial was moved to Virginia Beach from Prince William County because of worries that an impartial jury couldn't be seated.
The trial of Malvo, accused of killing Linda Franklin, 47, outside a Home Depot store in Falls Church five days after Meyers' death, also will take place in Hampton Roads. His trial is scheduled to start Nov. 10 in Chesapeake.
Neither Hampton Roads locality has ever hosted trials of this magnitude.
Hundreds of media respresentatives are expected to descend on Virginia Beach this week. Members of the media already have reserved space in hotels or rented houses in Virginia Beach. They've been plied with offers from people trying to rent houses, offer courier and catering services and even provide transportation.
"Being from this area, I know firsthand how parking is around the Virginia Beach Municipal Center," Seika Richardson, of Loco Limousines in Virginia Beach, wrote to members of the media last month.
Virginia Beach residents are expected to be inconvenienced somewhat, although officials have been trying to minimize the effect as much as possible. Still, the area around the courthouse will be a busy place, with part of one street blocked to accommodate dozens of satellite trucks -- from local television stations to CNN, ABC, NBC and FOX.
Fifteen residents -- the requisite 12 and three alternates -- will be chosen to decide Muhammad's fate. Last month, court officials mailed summonses to 1,050 Virginia Beach residents to appear for jury duty in October; 140 of those were instructed to show up for the jury pool Tuesday morning.
There, they'll first meet Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr., the Prince William County judge presiding over the trial. They'll meet the prosecutors, led by Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert. They'll meet the defense team of Jonathan Shapiro and Peter Greenspun -- Greenspun helped defend sportscaster Marv Albert in a 1997 sodomy case, which ended with a plea bargain.
On the three-member prosecution team is Richard Conway, who grew up in Newport News, went to the College of William and Mary and worked as a Newport News police officer before moving to Northern Virginia. He's been an assistant commonwealth's attorney in Prince William County for about 15 years.
Millette has presided over a high-profile case before -- John Wayne Bobbitt's marital assault case in 1993. Like Bobbitt's trial, Muhammad's case will not be televised, per Millette's order. Only a sketch artist and a still-camera photographer will be allowed to capture the trial with visual images.
For the most part, it'll be up to the reporters in the courtroom - - and those watching on closed-circuit television in a building a few blocks away -- to relay what happens during the trial to the public.
The small Virginia Beach courtroom hosting the Muhammad trial holds just 53 people who will sit on simple wooden benches. About 25 seats will go to the media. Five seats will be assigned to the public, while the rest will be filled by the victim's family, court security and the prosecution and defense teams.
Those five public seats are a hot commodity. More than 800 people from Maryland to North Carolina -- including many Peninsula residents -- have signed up for a chance to sit in the courtroom.
After jury selection -- estimated to last about a week -- members of the public who are chosen through a lottery system will get to sit in court just one day, to afford the opportunity to as many people as possible.
Andy Maciejewski, a 26-year-old insurance agent from Newport News who is contemplating law school, hopes he's one of the chosen. Like many in Hampton Roads, Maciejewski followed news of the snipers as they targeted people performing ordinary tasks such as pumping gas, shopping and mowing lawns.
Like many, he worried the snipers would travel further south.
"It really gripped the entire country," Maciejewski said. "Most times, the only people who get to be in a trial are reporters. It would be an opportunity to see what's going on -- to sit and look at him and wonder what was going on."
York County resident Efrain Rosado feels the same way. In the Richmond area for a job interview last Oct. 19, the 38-year-old robotics technician stopped at the Ponderosa Steakhouse in Ashland before realizing it was closed for breakfast. Rosado joked to his wife that they should stay in the car because the snipers could be hiding nearby.
Hours later, a 37-year-old man was shot in the abdomen outside the restaurant. He survived.
"I would like to really see and hear these guys -- if they have any reason why they did this," Rosado said of why he wants to be in the courtroom. "Do they have any excuse? I just don't understand why people would do this."
Virginia Beach officials have allocated $800,000 for the trial, but are hoping to keep the spending under $500,000.
That money will go toward extra security, public safety overtime, traffic control, portable toilets and arrangements for a media center and closed-circuit viewing areas for the victim's family and the media -- although the media will pay about $40,000 of the costs. Officials said they're hoping to get some federal or state reimbursement.
But for now, officials say they're as ready as they can be.
Nearby businesses say they're ready too -- and some are looking forward to the influx of cash. There are just a few restaurants around the perimeter of the municipal center complex. Zero's Subs on Court Plaza Drive is planning to serve breakfast, which it doesn't normally do, and will have extra staff on hand.
Peter's Steak, Seafood and Sushi at the corner of North Landing Road and George Mason Drive also is planning to bring in extra staff and even has one of its four dining areas set aside for the media.
The restaurant's sushi already has earned rave reviews from visiting Washington, D.C., reporters, said chef Theresa Fuentes, who also recommends the southwestern grouper and the Tuscany chicken.
"And," Fuentes said, "we have a full service bar."
Kim O'Brien Root can be reached at 928-6473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org