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2nd Sniper Is Sentenced to Life for Slaying

Lee Boyd Malvo won't be eligible for parole. He was linked to 10 killings but was tried for one.

March 11, 2004|David Lamb | Times Staff Writer

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Teenage sniper Lee Boyd Malvo -- who had bragged to investigators about being able to assassinate his victims with a single shot to the head -- was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without parole and fined $200,000.

Dressed in a gray sweater and slacks, the 5-foot-3, 120-pound killer looked younger than his 19 years as he stood, hands at his sides, to hear Judge Jane Marum Roush deliver his sentence. Malvo blinked twice but showed no emotion; he declined an opportunity to address the court.

The random attacks in the Washington area by Malvo and his mentor, John Allen Muhammad, left 10 people dead during a three-week period in October 2002. Court testimony revealed that the pair killed with military-like precision, staking out highways, shopping malls and gas stations to find unsuspecting victims going about their daily lives.

Malvo's sentencing took only 12 minutes and was something of a formality. Under Virginia law, Roush could not render a stiffer sentence than the life-without-parole penalty the jury had delivered Dec. 23, after Malvo's six-week trial.

Nor could she reduce the penalty, because life in prison is the minimum sentence in a capital murder case.

Muhammad, 43, a veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, was sentenced to death Tuesday during proceedings in Manassas, Va. Family members of the victims expressed disappointment after Malvo's trial that he too had not been sentenced to die.

Malvo was 17 at the time of killings, and some members of his jury said they had reservations about executing someone whose crimes were committed as a juvenile.

Although Malvo, like Muhammad, was linked to all 10 killings -- as well as to earlier slayings in Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Georgia and Washington state -- he was tried for a specific death: that of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, who was shot while loading her car in a Home Depot parking lot in Virginia on Oct. 14, 2002.

Malvo could yet receive the death penalty, because other states have expressed an interest in trying him in killings committed in their jurisdictions. Virginia, which executes more prisoners than any state except Texas, also has indicated it is considering trying him in other slayings.

Both of the defendants could have been tried in Maryland or the District of Columbia, but U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft handed the pair over to Virginia in 2002, citing the state's ability to impose "the ultimate sanction."

Rather than go through the expense of a new trial -- Malvo and Muhammad's trials cost Virginia nearly $3 million in defense attorney fees and prosecution costs -- the state is likely to await a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, expected this year, on the legality of executing killers whose crimes were committed as juveniles.

Malvo, a native of Jamaica who comes from a broken family, had pleaded not guilty to the sniper attacks by reason of insanity, claiming the strong-willed Muhammad had brainwashed him.

Malvo and Muhammad were arrested Oct. 24, 2002, in their car at a Maryland rest stop.

Malvo told investigators he had been on guard duty but had fallen asleep.

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