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Teen Accused in Sniper Killings to Be Tried as Adult, May Face Death

January 16, 2003|David Lamb | Times Staff Writer

FAIRFAX, Va. — Teenage sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo, charged with 10 slayings in the Washington area, will be tried as an adult and could face the death penalty, a Virginia judge ruled Wednesday.

No witnesses placed the youth at the killing sites during the two-day preliminary hearing. But 24 prosecution witnesses -- most of them law enforcement officers -- presented evidence that appeared to tie Malvo, 17, to the deadly sniper attacks that panicked Washington and suburban Virginia and Maryland for three weeks in October. Five of the attacks took place on a single day, Oct. 3.

"What's the evidence?" Fairfax County prosecutor Robert F. Horan asked the Juvenile Court, pointing to a Bushmaster Remington rifle. "That rifle sitting over there all day was found four or five feet from Mr. Malvo [when he was arrested]. His fingerprints are on it. No one else's."

Malvo, a Jamaican immigrant who allegedly entered the United States illegally, was arrested Oct. 24 at a highway rest stop with his traveling companion, John Allen Muhammad, 42. They are charged in 13 Washington-area sniper attacks -- 10 of them fatal -- and are suspects in eight other shootings around the country. All the victims were killed by a single bullet and were apparently chosen at random.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday January 28, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 13 inches; 470 words Type of Material: Correction
Sniper case -- An article in Section A on Jan. 16 incorrectly reported the type of weapon police say was used in the Washington, D.C.-area sniper killings. It is a Bushmaster XM-15 semiautomatic rifle, not a bolt-action model made by Remington.

Malvo and Muhammad will be tried separately -- first in Virginia -- later this year. In addition to first-degree murder, the charges also could include violating Virginia's anti-terrorism law, whichs make it a capital offense to "intimidate the civilian population at large."

One witness, Fairfax County Police Det. June Boyle, told Juvenile Court Judge Charles Maxfield that she interviewed Malvo for six hours after his arrest. "I talked to him long enough to know he's very smooth and well-spoken. I'd know that voice immediately," she said.

She described the youth as calm, relaxed and even "jovial on occasion."

Boyle identified Malvo's voice on two phone calls he allegedly made to authorities during the killing spree. In the calls, the teenager tried to extort $10 million to stop the killing, police said, and issued a string of chilling announcements such as, "Your children are not safe anywhere, any time."

After authorities failed to comply with the monetary demand and Conrad Johnson, 35, a Maryland bus driver, was killed, a male voice -- identified by the FBI as Malvo's -- speaking on a hotline the police had set up said, "Your incompetence has cost you another life."

Malvo, led into the courtroom in handcuffs, sat quietly throughout the hearing, sometimes attentive, sometimes appearing bored. He straightened out of his slouch when a sealed cardboard box containing the bolt-action .223-caliber Remington -- a weapon suitable for hunting deer -- was displayed, but showed no emotion when Maxwell ruled his alleged crimes were too serious to treat him as a juvenile.

His defense attorney, Michael Arif, argued that the case as it stood did not qualify as a capital case and that no one had placed Malvo at the scenes of the crimes. "There is no proof of probable cause," he said. Law enforcement sources earlier said Malvo told authorities he was the triggerman in at least three of the killings.

Muhammad, who also could face the death penalty, will be tried in neighboring Prince William County for the Oct. 9 slaying of Dean Meyers at a Manassas, Va., gas station. Malvo, who now calls himself John Lee Malvo, is charged with the Oct. 14 death of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, killed as she walked with her husband to their car in a Falls Church, Va., shopping center.

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