Malvo grew up in Jamaica and Antigua, and he looks back at the 14-year-old who met Muhammad as if he’s a million miles away. That boy was a vagabond, bouncing from his father to his mother and enduring physical abuse. He was fighting an illness, Malvo said, and Muhammad swooped in and nursed him back to health.
“The groundwork was laid in Antigua because I leaned on him, I trusted him,” Malvo said. “I was unable to distinguish between Muhammad the father I had wanted and Muhammad the nervous wreck that was just falling to pieces. He understood exactly how to motivate me by giving approval or denying approval. It’s very subtle. It wasn’t violent at all. It’s like what a pimp does to a woman.”
Muhammad was a savior in Malvo’s eyes, someone who could make his dreams come true. An ideal. And Malvo sees that boy now as the perfect rube.
“He picked me because he knew he could mold me,” Malvo said at Red Onion. “He knew I could be what he needed me to be. . . . He could not have chosen a better child.”
Malvo said he believes the shootings would have happened whether he was the accomplice or it was some other kid; he said they were an inevitable part of Muhammad’s plan, almost fated.
In 2001, Malvo, Muhammad and Muhammad’s three children left Antigua for the United States. Malvo briefly lived with his mother in Florida before boarding a bus to be with his “dad,” Muhammad, in Tacoma, Wash. It was right around the time that Muhammad was losing his own children. A judge ordered that they could live with Muhammad’s wife in secrecy. Malvo said losing the children devastated Muhammad, and he switched from a caring father figure to a steely and erratic leader.
“It was a military mission” at that point, Malvo said. “He told me to do something, and I did it. After a certain point, he didn’t have to say anything. He would just look at me, and I understood.”
Malvo said that Muhammad had him go to a gun range nearly every day. He learned how to shoot dozens of different weapons there. Some days, Malvo said, he would be at the range for 12 hours at a time. Muhammad would lurk over Malvo’s shoulder and tell him to envision himself shooting and killing the old Lee Malvo, the weak Lee Malvo, the wayward Lee Malvo.
So Malvo shot at himself, over and over and over again. When it came time for the first killing — Kenya Cook, 21, in Tacoma in February 2002 — Malvo said it was almost automatic. Muhammad told him what to do and he did it, he said. He saw his own face on Cook’s and was thinking he shot himself. He said he doesn’t even remember what she looked like. He vomited later, racked with grief.
“That was the beginning of the end,” Malvo said. “I knew I was going to die one way or the other, that going down this path ended with my death.”