The mother of the teenager accused in the Washington area sniper shootings is en route to her native Jamaica, ending weeks of interrogations by federal law enforcement officials.
Immigration and Naturalization Service officials would not say when Una James, 38, would arrive in Jamaica. But a source close to the case said she left Seattle for another U.S. city yesterday and was scheduled to be sent home today.
The deportation comes nearly two months after her son, John Lee Malvo, 17, and his companion, John Allen Muhammad, 41, were arrested at a Frederick County rest stop in connection with the terrifying shootings that left 10 dead and three wounded in the Washington area.
James has told authorities that she had no knowledge of her son's actions and that she has not even spoken to him since March. People who have seen her say she was distraught over the influence Muhammad had on her son.
"Mr. Muhammad is the devil," James told her son's lead defense attorney, Michael S. Arif, during a four-hour conversation Wednesday at a detention center in Bellingham, Wash. Arif repeated the remark yesterday but declined to comment further.
"Obviously, she loves her son," Arif said. "She's extremely concerned."
Malvo's court-appointed guardian, Todd G. Petit, said James has been unable to travel to visit Malvo because of her deportation proceedings. Petit said he has talked to James twice but he is still missing details about her son's life and "will need to try and contact her in Jamaica."
Authorities in Fairfax County have charged Malvo as an adult with two counts of capital murder in connection with the Oct. 14 killing of FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot. James will likely testify as part of the defense, Arif said, noting that the deportation complicates matters.
"It makes for logistical problems to try to get her back into court to testify," Arif said. Witnesses can be allowed into the country under a special immigration measure called parole.
James, an illegal immigrant, was ordered deported on Nov. 20. An official knowledgeable about the deportation said James cooperated with authorities.
"She's been very sincere. She's torn up over all this," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
James's deportation order, signed by Judge Anna Ho in Seattle, sheds new light on her odyssey. Ho, an immigration judge, criticized James for fraudulently trying to gain residency, lying to Border Patrol agents after her arrest and hampering the investigation. Her representatives say she arrived hoping to escape poverty and instead saw her dream shatter.
According to the order, James admitted paying $5,500 to Muhammad, an acquaintance from their previous home in Antigua, to provide her and her son with fake identification and airline tickets for separate journeys to the United States.
Una James arrived first, in June 1999, and sailed through the immigration inspection at the Miami airport, the document said. Several other accounts have placed her arrival date in 2000. The discrepancy could not be immediately clarified.
James applied for asylum, saying that she feared for her family's safety in Jamaica because her niece and nephew were victims of a politically motivated killing, the document says. But, it adds, "at some point she was told that Jamaicans are seldom granted asylum," and so she withdrew the application.
Her quest for residency continued. James settled in Fort Myers, Fla., and eventually met Jeremiah Neal, who agreed to marry her in exchange for $2,500, says the document.
James "conceded that she was actually the one who proposed the sham marriage to Neal, negotiated the amount of money to be paid, and made all the arrangements," says the deportation document. She gave him a down payment of $800 or $900, and they married in April 2001, it said.
Two months later, her son arrived, accompanied by Muhammad, whom he had lived with in Antigua. James tried to persuade the boy to remain in Florida, the document says, but he wanted to follow his older friend to Washington state.
Increasingly frantic about Muhammad's influence over her son, James traveled to Washington state in December 2001 to get him back. But when she called police to help, they detained her and her son and turned them over to the Border Patrol as illegal immigrants. They were jailed for a month before posting $1,500 bond.
Their immigration court date was initially set for Jan. 22. But that month, James filed another petition for a residence visa, claiming her marriage with Neal had ended because he abused her, the deportation documents say.
Her immigration hearings were delayed while authorities examined that petition. Last month, James withdrew it.
"She conceded that most of the information she provided . . . regarding Neal's violent abusive treatment of her was untrue. In fact, [his] only mistreatment consisted of extorting money from her by threatening to turn her in to INS, and occasional verbal abuse," the document said.
James was ordered deported and given 30 days to appeal. Her immigration attorneys did not return calls yesterday.
The deportation order clarified some of the mysteries that have surrounded James since she was detained on Dec. 19, 2001. At the time, she claimed that she and her son had arrived on a smuggler's ship. James apparently lied because Muhammad was present, said the official familiar with the case.
"She was scared and afraid, and scared to death of him," the official said.
James has managed to avoid the media since her son's arrest, staying in an undisclosed location east of Seattle. On Monday, James's attorneys told the immigration court she would not appeal her deportation order. She was taken into custody a day later.
Staff writer Serge Kovaleski contributed to this report.