CHESAPEAKE, Va. — In a taped confession played for jurors Tuesday, Lee Boyd Malvo -- his voice soft and unemotional -- told investigators he was the triggerman in the sniper attacks that terrorized the Washington, D.C., region last year, leaving 10 people dead and three wounded. "I intended to kill them all," Malvo said.
He described moving around the country with his surrogate father, John Allen Muhammad, using paper plates to represent heads during target practice and exercising patience so he could kill his victims with a single shot. "You aim for the upper-left chest cavity ... he's dead," Malvo, now 18, told authorities.
The tape, which runs an hour and 40 minutes, is a centerpiece of the prosecution's case against Malvo. He faces the death penalty if convicted of murdering FBI analyst Linda Franklin, who was shot Oct. 14, 2002, in a Fairfax, Va., Home Depot parking lot.
Muhammad was convicted of capital murder Monday in a separate trial in nearby Virginia Beach, Va. The penalty phase of his trial entered its second day Tuesday.
Samuel Walker, a Prince William County, Md., police detective who interrogated Malvo on the tape, said Tuesday he was struck by "how intelligent he was." Walker also testified that the Jamaican-born youth did not appear to be "out of contact with the real world." The interview took place Nov. 8, 2002, two weeks after Malvo and Muhammad were arrested while sleeping in their car at a Maryland rest stop.
Jurors sat with rapt attention while the chilling tape was played. They followed Malvo's comments on printed transcripts but seldom looked directly at the defendant.
Malvo's court-appointed attorneys plan to argue that their client was insane during the 21-day sniper rampage because he had been brainwashed and turned into a "child soldier" by Muhammad; they will say that he could not distinguish between right and wrong.
On the tape, Malvo told Walker he did not consider himself a vicious person. "Vicious to me is based on having you hurt me; then you will see a side of me you wouldn't want to see," he said. "But I'm not ... I won't just go out, I'm not a vicious, mean, blood-hounded person."
Malvo often spoke in military terms; Muhammad, his mentor, is a Persian Gulf War veteran. "Listen," Malvo said at one point, "I moved on a GP [global positioning] tracking system, so the roads don't really matter to me." He rattled off specific weapons and claimed he was a good shot from 300 yards away.
Although no motive for the random slayings has been established at either trial, Malvo said he and Muhammad -- who demanded $10 million from the government to stop the killings -- were after the money. He said the killings would have gone on had he and Muhammad not been caught, and that they would have entered "another phase" in which the government would have to bring out the military to restore order.
"Did you want us to catch you?" Walker asked on the tape.
Malvo responded: "I would prefer to be elusive, unknown and free."
Walker: "So why do you think we caught you?"
Malvo: "My ... my laziness, my lack of discipline."
In another exchange, Malvo brushed aside Walker's attempt to elicit full cooperation from him to provide clues in future investigations "if someone ever tries to copycat or something."
Walker: "You wouldn't want someone to copycat you, would you?"
Malvo: "It doesn't matter to me."
Walker: "Hold on one second. It doesn't matter to you if someone tries to copycat?"
Malvo: "I keep ego out of it."
Walker: "You keep ego out of it? So it wasn't about ego at all? It was all about money?"