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Bail Denied for Teen Sniper Suspect

Judge orders Lee Boyd Malvo, 17, held at an adult facility. In another court, John Muhammad is formally charged with capital crimes.

November 09, 2002|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

FAIRFAX, Va. — Sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo was ordered held without bond Friday after a prosecutor said the teenager was seen near three Virginia shooting sites and that only his fingerprints were found on the rifle used in some of the deadly attacks.

Fairfax County prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. said Malvo, 17, was spotted in Fairfax, in Prince William County and near a gas station in Spotsylvania County -- sites where three people were slain during the October rampage.

Horan also said that only Malvo's prints were found on the rifle used to kill FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot in Falls Church on Oct. 14.

Malvo was ordered held at an adult detention center after the prosecutor said he tried to escape while in federal custody in Baltimore by breaking through a ceiling and climbing away before falling into an office.

Malvo, handcuffed and wearing a green jailhouse jumpsuit, answered, "Yes, sir," when the judge asked if he understood his rights. Horan said officials are trying to locate Malvo's mother in Bellingham, Wash.

Malvo's court-appointed attorney, Michael Arif, dismissed the importance of the fingerprints, and said Malvo will plead not guilty. He also complained that police questioned Malvo for nearly eight hours on Thursday without a lawyer present.

"I'm not at all comfortable with a 17-year-old being in police custody for that long without police representation," Arif said.

In Prince William County, John Allen Muhammad was formally charged with the Oct. 9 slaying of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, who was shot while pumping gas in Manassas.

Wearing leg shackles and an orange jumpsuit, Muhammad stood when the judge read the charges: two counts of capital murder and one count each of conspiracy to commit murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Circuit Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. asked Muhammad if he wanted a court-appointed lawyer.

"I thought I already had counsel," Muhammad replied, referring to a lawyer appointed by a federal court.

The judge said that Muhammad didn't have a lawyer to face the Virginia charges and again asked him if he wanted one appointed. Muhammad replied, "I don't know what to say, sir."

The judge said he would appoint a lawyer.

Also Friday, law enforcement officials said the hard drive of a Sony Vaio laptop computer found in the Chevrolet Caprice used by the two suspects contained diary-like files that likely will be used as evidence against them.

One investigator described the entries as a rambling travel inventory that provides insight into the suspects' movements before and during the three-week rampage in the Washington area. But authorities said the laptop entries did not contain overt references to the murders or passages that shed clear light on a possible motive for the shootings.

"It's helpful in the sense that it lets us track what they were up to," the investigator said.

FBI forensics experts had matched the laptop to a computer stolen from a Clinton, Md., restaurant owner who was shot six times Sept. 5 as he left his restaurant. A serial number had been partially scratched off, but investigators were able to connect the laptop to the restaurateur, Paul LaRuffa, who survived the shooting.

LaRuffa said he was shot moments after getting into his car. Co-workers saw a man reach into LaRuffa's car and flee with a satchel. LaRuffa said he lost the Sony laptop and more than $3,000 in cash receipts.

Sniper task force investigators have run tests to compare the .22-caliber bullets recovered from the shooting with a handgun recovered in Montgomery, Ala., near the site of a murder at a liquor store also linked to the Washington-area killings.

Police in Prince George's County, Md., said Friday they were "confident" they had linked the Sept. 5 shooting to the suspects, but refused to discuss the evidence.

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