Malvo Describes Two-Step Plan
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Confronting his accomplice for the first time, Lee Boyd Malvo testified yesterday that John Allen Muhammad intended to bomb schools, school buses and children's hospitals after the sniper shootings that paralyzed the Washington area in October 2002.
Malvo, speaking evenly for five hours at Muhammad's trial in Montgomery County, said Muhammad pulled the trigger in nine of the 10 fatal shootings and actually sought to claim six lives a day for a month.
The young sniper, testifying for the prosecution, described a number of planned shootings that were aborted because there were too many potential witnesses. The men scouted dozens of locations. In one instance, Malvo said, he spent hours staring at a fast-food restaurant through the scope of his high-powered rifle, under instructions from Muhammad to shoot a pregnant woman.
Muhammad's ultimate goal was to indoctrinate 140 young homeless men at a compound in Canada who would "shut things down" in cities across the United States, Malvo testified.
The testimony, the first inside account of the shootings, teemed with new information about motives and methods and riveted courtroom spectators and victims' families as Malvo faced the man he said he once would have died for. He said he chose to testify "for what it's worth for the victims."
"I think he's a coward," Malvo said, looking directly at Muhammad and holding his gaze. "You took me in your house, and you made me a monster."
Muhammad, who is conducting his defense and has claimed the pair's innocence, began cross-examining Malvo late in the afternoon. He said that he had been asked by prosecutors not to refer to Malvo as "my son" and noted that Malvo has provided conflicting accounts about the shootings.
A handcuffed Malvo, wearing a dark blazer and white shirt with open collar, was escorted into the courtroom by three sheriff's deputies. His testimony was articulate and animated. He spoke with a hint of a Jamaican accent and showed neither grief nor regret as he deconstructed the slayings. His speech grew halting one time, as a relative of victim Premkumar A. Walekar was escorted from the courtroom, sobbing.
It was a very different Malvo who spoke to investigators in November 2002, shortly after he was turned over to Virginia authorities. In a tape played in court during his murder trial, a boastful, remorseless Malvo spoke in mocking tones but great detail about the sniper shootings, parrying with interrogators but ultimately claiming he fired the shots in all but one or two of the killings.
Yesterday, Malvo disavowed his earlier statements, saying he and Muhammad had planned that he would accept responsibility for the shootings if they were caught. As the younger of the two, he said, he would be less likely to be sentenced to death.
Malvo, 21, who has agreed to plead guilty to six counts of first-degree murder in the six Montgomery killings, said he fired the weapon in the slaying of Montgomery County bus driver Conrad Johnson and the shootings of 13-year-old Iran Brown and Jeffrey Hopper, now 42, two of the victims who survived.
All other shots were fired by Muhammad, Malvo testified.