Gloucester County authorities said that the slain robber, Vincent Reid, 28, of Camden, had been seen driving the vehicle Monday before the robbery, in which at least one accomplice escaped with a money bag.
Neighbors said the Suzuki, with Florida license tags and a Camden County College parking sticker, had been left late Tuesday or early yesterday. It had been covered with an oily substance in what authorities suspect was an attempt to mask fingerprints.
A Logan Township resident who lived with her family in the Beckett housing development, Lavin was hit in the crossfire between a robber and an armored-car guard just as she had climbed a staircase to the mall's upper level. She was at the mall for some back-to-school shopping.
Authorities have not said who fired the shot that felled Lavin.
Also killed was bystander Nicholas Morris, 17, of Clayton, who had excelled in football at Glassboro High School. Authorities said Reid had a criminal record in South Carolina and Pennsylvania. Gloucester County authorities said it was Reid's gun that killed Morris.
Reid was shot to death by Brooks armored-car guard Rudolph Matlack, 21, of Williamstown, the apparent target of the robbery as he made a pickup at the Midlantic Bank branch in the mall. Matlack was shot in the chin and abdomen. Cooper Hospital officials said yesterday that his condition was upgraded from critical to stable.
Two possible accomplices of Reid's - one of whom also fired a handgun in the melee - are being sought.
Investigators said they had been greatly aided by an avalanche of information provided by witnesses. They also hope to glean information from an examination of security videotapes from the bank and several other mall stores.
``Although no arrests have been made yet, things are starting to indicate that there is light, and we are hopeful that the case will be wrapped up shortly,'' a police source said.
FBI agents and Camden police yesterday roamed the streets of Camden and Philadelphia, looking for leads.
In Beckett, where Lavin was raised, friends and neighbors described her as a friendly girl who rode her bike and did cartwheels down the street. Recently, she acted and sang in a summer-school production titled Way Out West Side Story, a takeoff on the original.
``I just really can't believe it,'' said Saman Khan, 13, who lived across the street from Lavin and considered the girl her best friend. ``We're shocked. We really thought she was going to be all right.''
After watching Lavin perform in the play, Khan said that she had decided to try out next year and that her friend was going to help her rehearse. ``I just wish she could be here,'' Khan said as her voice broke.
Lavin had graduated from the eighth grade at Logan Township Elementary School and was set to start the ninth grade at Kingsway Regional High School.
``We saw her in the hallways a lot, and she always had a smile for you and a `Good morning,' '' said Anthony Petruzzelli, her social studies teacher.
As an eighth grader, Lavin was elected to the student council and was voted ``Most Improved Student'' by the faculty.
At the Deptford Mall, the Midlantic bank reopened yesterday for the first time since the killings.
In front of the bank, many more flower bouquets had been placed at what has become a memorial for the victims next to the MAC machine, where the robbery and shootout started.
Also left were a football and a football jersey with the number 14, a tribute to Morris, who was being heavily recruited by major college football programs. He was a rising senior at Glassboro High School.
A message on a pink poster board read: ``In loving memory of Nick Morris.''
Members of a critical-stress team remained at the mall, talking to mall employees and interested shoppers. The unit had arrived within 30 minutes of the shooting Monday afternoon to counsel mall management and security guards.
``We've been going store to store today,'' said director Roland Kandle, whose day job is as a firefighter. ``Some people are embarrassed to come. They've got this macho image and don't want to show that they need this.''
Individual and group sessions are available, and, so far, counselors have talked to more than 100 people. Appointments already have been made for today.
An empty store has been converted into a multipurpose room, where mallwide meetings have been held since Monday.
Kandle said that Monday's crisis involved four common events that trigger critical-incident stress: mass casualties, the death of a child, a high degree of danger and high media interest.
``We tell them of things that might occur, like sleep disturbances, flashbacks, nightmares, lack of appetite. Some are telling us that they fear walking the same stairway, or using the bank to make deposits,'' said counselor Pat Cone. ``We emphasize that what they're feeling is normal. The situation is not normal.''
The post-traumatic stress that people may feel after a crisis may not kick in for several days, even months, said Cone.
Funeral arrangements for Lavin had not been announced last night.
A viewing for Morris is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by a funeral service at noon at Triumph Church in Glassboro. Burial will follow at Hillcrest Cemetery in Hurffville.
A fund has been set up for the Morris family. Contributions can be sent to: Patricia Morris, c/o Glassboro Board of Education, Bowe Boulevard, Glassboro, N.J. 08028.