Pair Mapped Out Their Travels on a Laptop Computer

By Michael E. Ruane and Sari Horwitz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, October 6, 2003

Malvo and Muhammad had it down to a system. Using the laptop stolen from Paul La Ruffa and a global positioning navigation device they had in the Caprice, Malvo navigated them easily around the area. Maps printed out from their software appeared to indicate some of their travels. "You have the computer," Malvo would tell the authorities later. "It's all on there."

One map highlighted a Virginia route that went from Manassas to Haymarket to Centreville, with a detour within sight of where Dean Harold Meyers was killed. Another map showed a route right past the Tasker school in Bowie, where Iran Brown was shot. Several spots were designated with small skull-and-crossbones icons. One marked a spot across the street from where Premkumar A. Walekar was killed in Aspen Hill. Another marked White Flint Mall, near where James L. "Sonny" Buchanan was killed. Another marked a place a few blocks from the Wheaton shopping center where James D. Martin was killed.

Other skull icons marked spots where there had been no reported shootings: the Howard University campus in Washington; a spot near Quincy Street off Brookville Road in Chevy Chase; the busy intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Veirs Mill Road, not far from the area of the Oct. 3 shootings; Indian Spring Drive near a YMCA in Silver Spring; and Martinsburg Mall in West Virginia, about 90 miles northwest of Washington.

Some maps featured places marked with smiling or frowning face icons. National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda got a frowning face in the middle of the hospital grounds. But a spot near rural Fairplay, Md., south of Hagerstown, earned a smiling face and a box that read "potential area." Some of the maps also contained spots denoted with exact addresses. Two were for YMCAs in Maryland and North Carolina. Three others were for schools just outside Washington: Rosaryville Elementary School in Upper Marlboro; Mary Harris "Mother" Jones Elementary School in Adelphi; and Berwyn Heights Elementary School near College Park. All were brand new, in recently built or refurbished buildings, and had just opened a few weeks before.

Other maps traced routes between Washington and Fredericksburg and south into North Carolina. Several map locations in southern Virginia and North Carolina had small computer screen boxes that read "good spot," "good spot off I-95," "good spot, drag effect" and "eastern move, many ways out."

Malvo would later laugh describing to investigators a shot he said had missed a boy, who then swatted the air as if at a bee. He wasn't specific about where that was. Some investigators concluded it could have been the first Michaels shooting. But the maps hint that it could have been any of the other locations the pair seem to have cased.

Malvo said they watched the media and the police response carefully. "You said this so we did this or that. . . . The media would say this so we would do another thing. We had something for everything."

Malvo indicated that he and Muhammad took turns with the Bushmaster, deciding who would do what before they went out for the day. One would set up to shoot, while the other spotted, not to aid the shooter but to look for trouble. Police would later find, in a sock left in the Caprice, a second rifle scope besides the one Malvo called the "battlescope" on the gun.

Sometimes the shooter would be in the car, sometimes out of it. Often, shooter and spotter would not be together. Malvo told investigators they used walkie-talkies to communicate. They selected a location and a time window. It was the call of the "sniper" whether to take the shot. Escape was made cautiously, so as not to arouse suspicion. But knowing they were still invisible, they sometimes came back, as in Manassas, and hung around to watch the expressions on the faces of the bystanders. Malvo even asked police officers what had happened and would be asked, in turn, if he had seen anything suspicious. He and Muhammad also would test the roadblocks to see if the car caught police attention. It never did.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company