Lee Boyd Malvo
(also known as John Lee Malvo or Malik Malvo) (born February 18, 1985),
is a Jamaican convicted of mass murder. He, along with John Allen
Muhammad, were arrested on October 24, 2002 in connection with the
Beltway sniper attacks throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area.
These turned out to be only the last of a series of shootings across the
United States which began on the West Coast.
Muhammad had befriended the juvenile Malvo, and had
enlisted him in the murderous rampage under some false pretenses and
influences which are still not fully understood by authorities. For
example, according to Craig Cooley, one of Malvo's defense attorneys,
Malvo believed Muhammad when he told him that the $10 million ransom
sought from the US government to stop the sniper killings would be used
to establish a Utopian society for 140 black homeless children on a
Malvo ultimately cooperated with investigators, and
is serving multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole;
Muhammad, who has remained silent, is awaiting execution in Virginia.
Joining John Allen Muhammad
Lee Boyd Malvo and his mother Una
first met John Allen Muhammad in Antigua and Barbuda around 1999, where
Una and Muhammad developed a strong friendship. Later, Una left Antigua
for Fort Myers, Florida, using false documents. She left her son with
Muhammad, planning to have him follow her later. He did join his mother
for a short time in 2001.
In 2002, Malvo traveled to Bellingham,
Washington, where he lived in a homeless shelter with Muhammad and
enrolled in high school with Muhammad falsely listed as his father, but
he did not make any friends. While in the Tacoma, Washington, area,
according to his statements to investigators, Malvo shoplifted the
Bushmaster XM-15 from Bull's Eye Shooter Supply, a dealer for Bushmaster
Firearms, Inc., a manufacturer and distributor based in Windham, Maine.
About the same time, Muhammad practiced his marksmanship on the Bull's
Eye firing range adjacent to the gun shop. Under federal laws, neither
was legally allowed to purchase or possess guns.
Lee Malvo is an illegal alien from Jamaica who
arrived in Miami in 2001. He and his mother were apprehended by the
Border Patrol in Bellingham, Washington, in December 2001. In January
2002, Malvo was released on a $1,500 bond. Malvo caught up with Muhammad
soon after and the two have been linked to a murder that happened that
Of Malvo's release and illegal status, Michelle
Malkin reported that the Seattle Immigration and Naturalization
Service's release of Malvo was "in clear violation of federal law and
contrary to what the arresting Border Patrol officers intended... The
law is explicit: Illegal alien stowaways are to be detained and deported
without hearings. James admitted that she and her son were illegal alien
stowaways. Yet, in January 2002, James was released on a $1,500 bond..."
Sniper attack victims
These are the victims who were murdered or wounded in
the attacks. This list is in chronological order.
| James Martin
||October 2, 2002
| James Buchanan
||October 3, 2002
| Premkumar Walekar
||October 3, 2002
| Sarah Ramos
||October 3, 2002
| Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera
||October 3, 2002
| Pascal Charlot
||October 3, 2002
| Caroline Seawell
||October 4, 2002
| Iran Brown
||October 7, 2002
| Dean Harold
||October 9, 2002
| Kenneth Bridges
||October 11, 2002
| Linda Franklin
||October 14, 2002
| Jeffrey Hopper
| Conrad Johnson
||October 22, 2002
Malvo was initially arrested under federal charges,
but they were dropped. He was transferred to Virginia custody and sent
to jail in Fairfax County. He was charged by the Commonwealth of
Virginia for two capital crimes: the murder of FBI analyst Linda
Franklin "in the commission of an act of terrorism" (an addendum to
Virginia law that was added after the September 11, 2001, attacks), and
the murder of more than one person in a three-year period. He was also
charged with the unlawful use of a firearm in the murder of Franklin. A
Fairfax attorney, Michael Arif, was appointed to represent him. The team
assisting Mr. Arif included Thomas B. Walsh, Mark J. Petrovich, and
Professor Roger Groot. While in jail, he made a recorded confession to
Detective Samuel Walker in which he stated that he "intended to kill
Under a change of venue, the trial was moved over 150
miles away to the city of Chesapeake in southeastern Virginia. He
pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to all charges on the grounds
that he was under Muhammad's complete control. One of Malvo's
psychiatric witnesses testified that Muhammad, a member of Nation of
Islam, had indoctrinated him into believing that the proceeds of the
extortion attempt would be used to begin a new nation of only pure black
young persons somewhere in Canada.
On December 18, 2003, after nearly 14 hours of
deliberation, the jury convicted him of both charges. On December 23, a
jury recommended a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of
parole for the murder of Franklin. On March 10, 2004, a judge formally
sentenced him to life in prison without parole (he could not be
sentenced to a penalty greater than recommended by the jury).
During this trial, Malvo at times seemed uninterested
in the legal proceedings, drawing pictures of the judge, lawyers and
other people in the courtroom. The presiding judge, Jane Marum Roush of
the Fairfax County Circuit Court, joked with courtroom artists about
this incident, stating that their art might have to compete with the
defendant's for newspaper and TV coverage.
On October 26, 2004, under a plea bargain to avoid a
possible death penalty, Malvo entered an Alford plea to the charges of
murdering Kenneth Bridges and attempting to murder Caroline Seawell
while Malvo was in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. He also plead guilty
to two firearms charges and agreed not to appeal his conviction for the
murder of Franklin. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole
for murder, plus eight years imprisonment for the weapons charges.
One Virginia prosecutor in Prince William County had
stated he would wait to decide whether to try him on additional capital
charges in his jurisdiction until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on
whether juveniles may be subject to the penalty of execution. However,
in light of the March 1, 2005 Supreme Court decision in Roper v. Simmons
that the Eighth Amendment prohibits execution for crimes committed when
under the age of 18, the prosecutors in Prince William County have
decided not to pursue the charges against Malvo. However, prosecutors in
Maryland, Louisiana and Alabama are still interested in putting both
Malvo and Muhammad on trial.
As Malvo was 17 when he committed the crimes, he
cannot face the death penalty, but still may be extradited to Alabama,
Louisiana, and other states for prosecution. At the outset of the
Beltway sniper prosecutions, the primary reason for extraditing the two
suspects from Maryland, where they were arrested, to Virginia, was the
differences in how the two states deal with the death penalty. While the
death penalty is allowed in Maryland, it is only applied to persons who
were adults at the time of their crimes, whereas Virginia had also
allowed the death penalty for offenders who had been juveniles when
their crimes were committed.
In May 2005, Virginia and Maryland reached an
agreement to allow Maryland to begin prosecuting some of the pending
charges there, and Malvo was extradited to Montgomery County, Maryland
under heavy security.
On June 16, 2006, Malvo told authorities that he and
Muhammad were guilty of four additional shootings. The four most
recently linked victims were also shot in 2002: a man killed in Los
Angeles during a robbery in February or March; a 76-year-old man who
survived a shooting on May 18 at a golf course in Clearwater, Florida; a
man shot to death while doing yard work in Denton, Texas, May 27; and a
54-year-old man who survived being shot on August 1 during a robbery
outside a shopping mall near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
On October 10, 2006, Malvo plead guilty to the six
murders he was charged with in Maryland. On November 8, he was sentenced
to six consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
On October 27, 2006, Malvo told police that he and
Muhammad were responsible for the killing of a 60-year-old man on a golf
course in Tucson, Arizona. He claimed that they shot Jerry Taylor while
he was practicing chip shots on a local golf course. Tucson police had
long sought to speak with Malvo about the March 19, 2002 death of
Taylor, who died from a single long range gunshot.
In 2003, Malvo and Muhammad were named in a major
civil lawsuit by the Legal Action Project of the Brady Center to Prevent
Gun Violence on behalf of some two of their victims who were seriously
wounded and the families of some of those murdered. Although Malvo and
Muhammad were each believed to be indigent, co-defendants Bull's Eye
Shooter Supply and Bushmaster Firearms contributed to a landmark $2.5
million out-of-court settlement in late 2004.
The real plan, as told by Lee Boyd Malvo
In Muhammad's May 2006 trial in Montgomery County,
Maryland, Malvo took the stand and confessed to a more detailed version
of the pair's plans. Malvo, after extensive counseling, admitted that he
was lying at the earlier Virginia trial where he had admitted to being
the triggerman for every shooting. Malvo claimed that he had said this
in order to protect Muhammad from the death penalty, because it was more
difficult to achieve the death penalty for a minor. Malvo stated, "I'm
not proud of myself. I'm just trying to make amends," expressing his
regret in the shootings. In his two days of testimony, Malvo outlined
detailed aspects of all the shootings.
Part of his testimony concerned Muhammad's complete,
multiphase plan. His plan consisted of three phases in the Washington,
DC and Baltimore, Maryland metro areas. Phase one consisted of
meticulously planning, mapping, and practicing their locations around
the DC area. This way after each shooting they would be able to quickly
leave the area on a predetermined path, and move on to the next location.
Muhammad's goal in Phase One was to kill six white people a day for 30
days. Malvo went on to describe how Phase One did not go as planned due
to heavy traffic and the lack of a clear shot and/or getaway at
Phase Two was meant to be moved up to Baltimore.
Malvo described how this phase was close to being implemented, but never
was carried out. Phase Two was intended to begin by killing a pregnant
woman by shooting her in the stomach. The next step would have been to
shoot and kill a Baltimore City police officer. Then, at the officer's
funeral, they were to create several improvised explosive devices. These
explosives were intended to kill a large number of police, since many
police would attend another officer's funeral.
The last phase was to take place very shortly after,
if not during, Phase Two. The third phase was to extort several million
dollars from the U.S. government. This money would be used to finance a
larger plan: to travel north into Canada and recruit other effectively
orphaned boys to use weapons and stealth, and send them out to commit
shootings across the country.
As of 2011 Lee Boyd Malvo, Virginia Department of
Corrections # 1180834, Inmate # 330873, is incarcerated at the Red Onion
On October 2, 2007, Malvo called a daughter of one
of the victims, Cheryll Witz, to apologize for his role.
Malvo reportedly sent a letter, dated February 21,
2010, to apologize to John C. Gaeta for shooting him. Malvo wrote: "I
am truly sorry for the pain I caused you and your loved ones. I was
relieved to hear that you suffered no paralyzing injuries and that you
The Beltway sniper attacks
took place during three weeks in October 2002 in Washington, D.C.,
Maryland, and Virginia. Eleven people were killed and three others
critically injured in various locations throughout the Washington
Metropolitan Area and along Interstate 95 in Virginia.
It was widely speculated that a single
sniper was using the Capital Beltway for travel, possibly in a white van
or truck. It was later learned that the rampage was perpetrated by one
man, John Allen Muhammad and one minor Lee Boyd Malvo, driving a blue
1990 Chevrolet Caprice sedan, and had apparently begun the month before
with murders and robbery in Louisiana and Alabama, which had resulted in
Authorities initially attributed the attacks to a lone sniper, dubbed by
journalists the "Beltway Sniper," the "D.C. Sniper," the "Washington
Sniper," the "Serial Sniper" or the "Tarot Card Killer."
After their capture, there was much confusion about the names of the two
males. The older of the pair, born John Allen Williams (age 41 at the
time of capture), had joined the Black nationalist organization the
Nation of Islam some years earlier, and in October 2001 had changed his
name to John Allen Muhammad. The younger male was born Lee Boyd Malvo,
but also calls himself John Lee Malvo and had posed as Muhammad's son
(17 years old at the time of his arrest).
males practiced shooting at a tree stump in the backyard of the 3300
block of South Proctor Street in Tacoma, Washington State, according to
investigators, and studied the film Savior, produced by Oliver Stone.
On September 5, 2002, at 10:30 pm, Paul LaRuffa, a 55-year-old pizzeria
owner, was shot six times at close range while locking up his Italian
restaurant in Clinton, Maryland. LaRuffa survived the shooting and his
laptop computer was found in John Muhammad's car when he and Malvo were
On September 21, 2002, an unidentified
liquor store clerk in Montgomery, Alabama, was shot and killed during a
robbery. Her co-worker, Kellie Adams, was injured, but survived.
Evidence found at the crime scene eventually tied this killing to the
Beltway attacks and allowed authorities to identify Muhammad and Malvo
as suspects, although this connection was not made until October 17.
Beltway Sniper attacks
The main shootings associated with the
Beltway Sniper incident began on October 2, 2002, with one victim killed
that evening in Glenmont, Maryland. Four more victims were killed the
next morning, and a sixth killed in the evening on October 3, 2002. All
shootings happened within a few miles of each other. The killing spree
increased the murder rate in this normally-safe area by 25% within a
span of 20 hours.
At 5:20pm, a
shot was fired through a window of a Michaels Craft Store in Aspen Hill.
As no one was injured, no serious alarms were raised. About an hour
later, at 6:30pm, James Martin, a 55-year-old program analyst at NOAA,
was shot and killed in the parking lot of a Shoppers Food Warehouse
grocery store, located in Glenmont.
On the morning of
October 3, four people were shot within a span of approximately 2 hours
in Aspen Hill, and other nearby areas in Montgomery County. Another was
killed that evening in the District of Columbia, just over the border
from Silver Spring.
At 7:41am, James L. Buchanan, a 39-year-old
landscaper known as "Sonny", was shot dead in Montgomery County near
Rockville, Maryland. Buchanan was shot while mowing the grass at the
Fitzgerald Auto Mall.
At 8:12am, 54-year-old part-time taxi driver
Premkumar Walekar was killed in Aspen Hill in Montgomery County, while
pumping gasoline into his taxi at a Mobil station at Aspen Hill Road and
Sarah Ramos, a 34-year-old babysitter and housekeeper,
was killed at 8:37am at the Leisure World Shopping Center in Aspen Hill.
She had gotten off a bus, and was seated on a bench, reading a book.
At 9:58am, in what was to be the last killing of the
morning, 25-year-old Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera was killed while vacuuming
her Dodge Caravan at the Shell station at the intersection of
Connecticut & Knowles Avenues in Kensington, Maryland.
The snipers then waited until 9:15pm before shooting
Pascal Charlot, a 72-year-old retired carpenter, while he was walking on
Georgia Avenue at Kalmia Road, in Washington, D.C. Charlot died less
than an hour later.
In each shooting, the victims were
killed by a single bullet fired from some distance. The pattern was not
detected until after the shootings occurred on October 3.
Fear quickly spread throughout the community as news of the shootings
spread. Many parents went to pick up their children at school early, not
allowing them to take a school bus or walk home alone. Montgomery County
Public Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools, and private schools
went into a lockdown, with no recess or outdoor gym classes. Other
school districts in the area also took precautionary measures, keeping
and other areas
point Malvo and Muhammad started covering a wider area and taking more
time between shootings. On October 4, 43-year-old Caroline Seawell was
wounded at 2:30pm in the parking lot of a Michaels Craft Store at
Spotsylvania Mall in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, just outside the
city of Fredericksburg, while she was loading purchases into her minivan.
On October 7, at 8:09am, Iran Brown, a 13-year-old boy, was shot as he
arrived at the Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, Maryland, in
Prince George's County (Brown's name was at first concealed from the
public but has since been revealed). At this crime scene the authorities
discovered a shell casing as well as a Tarot card (the Death card)
inscribed with the phrase, "Call me God" on the front and on the back on
three separate lines the words, "For you mr. Police." "Code: 'Call me
God'." "Do not release to the press."
Two days later,
on October 9 at 8:18pm, 53-year-old Dean Harold Meyers was shot dead
while pumping gasoline at a Sunoco gas station on Sudley Road in Prince
William County, Virginia, near the city of Manassas.
Again, two days later, on the morning of October 11 at
9:30am, 53-year-old Kenneth Bridges was shot dead while pumping fuel at
an Exxon station off Interstate 95 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia,
On October 14, at 9:15pm, 47-year-old
Linda Franklin, an FBI intelligence analyst who was a resident of
Arlington County, Virginia, was shot dead after she finished shopping at
a Home Depot in Fairfax County, Virginia, just outside Falls Church at
Seven Corners Shopping Center. The police received what seemed to be a
very good lead after the October 14 shooting, but it was later
determined that the witness was inside the Home Depot at the time and
was lying. The witness was subsequently arrested for interfering with
After a five day interval, 37-year-old
Jeffrey Hopper was shot on October 19 at 8:00pm in a parking lot near
the Ponderosa steakhouse in Ashland, Virginia, about 90 miles south of
Washington, near Interstate 95. Authorities discovered a 4-page letter
from the shooter in the woods.
On October 21, Richmond-area
police arrested two men, one with a white van, outside a gas station.
The men turned out to be illegal immigrants with no connection to the
shooter and they were remanded in the custody of what was then the
Immigration and Naturalization Service, which subsequently deported them.
The next day, October 22, bus driver Conrad Johnson was
shot dead at 5:56am while standing on the steps of his bus in Aspen
Hill, Maryland. Chief Moose released part of the content of one of the
shooter's communications, in which he declares, "Your children are not
safe, anywhere, at any time".
While no shootings
occurred on October 23, the day is significant for two events. First,
ballistics experts confirmed Johnson as the tenth fatality in the
Beltway shootings. Second, in a yard in Tacoma, Washington State, near a
sniper school operated by the United States Army, police searched with
metal detectors for bullets, shell casings, or other evidence that might
provide a link to the shooters. A tree stump believed to have been used
for target practice was seized.
The incident came to a close on October 24, when Muhammad and Malvo were
found sleeping in their car, a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice, at a rest
stop off of Interstate 70 near Myersville, Maryland, and arrested on
federal weapons charges. Police were tipped off by Ron Lantz, who
noticed the parked car. Lantz used his truck to block the exit from the
rest stop while he alerted police. A Bushmaster .223-caliber weapon and
bipod were found in a bag in Muhammad's car. Ballistics tests later
conclusively linked the seized rifle to 11 of the 14 shootings,
including one in which no one was injured.
Logistics and tactics
The attacks were carried out with the firearm found in
the vehicle, a stolen Bushmaster XM-15 semiautomatic .223 caliber rifle
equipped with a red-dot sight at ranges of between 50 and over 100 yards.
The sniper shot from the trunk of the car from a small hole created for
The investigation was publicly headed by the Montgomery
County Police Department and its Police Chief, Charles Moose. The Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the FBI, the Secret
Service, and police departments in other jurisdictions where shootings
took place, provided assistance in the investigation.
Police responded within minutes to reports of attacks during the three
weeks of the sniper attacks, cordoning off nearby roads and highways and
inspecting all drivers, thereby grinding traffic to a halt for hours at
a time. Police canvassed the area, talking to people, and collected
By Friday night, October 4, the
five shootings on October 3 and two on October 2 were forensically
linked to the same gun.
Eyewitness accounts of the
attacks were mostly confused and spotty. Hotlines set up for the
investigation were flooded with tips, as was the post office box set up
for tips by mail. Early tips from eyewitnesses included reports of a
white box truck with dark lettering, speeding away from the Leisure
World shopping center, with two men inside. Police across the area and
the state of Maryland were pulling over white vans and trucks. A gray
car was spotted speeding away after the October 4 shooting in
attempted to engage the police in a dialogue, compelling Moose to tell
the media cryptic messages intended for the sniper. At several scenes
Tarot cards were left as calling cards, including one Death card upon
which was written "Call me God" on the front and on the back on three
separate lines the words, "For you mr. Police." "Code: 'Call me God'."
"Do not release to the press." This information was leaked to the press
and misquoted often as "I am God" or some similar mis quote of the
actual words on the tarot card. Later scenes had long, handwritten notes
carefully sealed inside plastic bags, including a rambling one that
demanded $10,000,000 and threatened the lives of children in the area.
At one point, a telephone call from the shooter(s) was traced to a pay
telephone at a gasoline station in Henrico County, Virginia. Police
missed the suspects by a matter of a few minutes, and initially detained
occupants of a van at another pay telephone at the same intersection.
On the phone call, the sniper, boasting of his cleverness, also
mentioned a previous unsolved murder in "Montgomery". This was
identified as the September 21 shooting at a liquor store in Montgomery,
Alabama. On October 17 authorities said they matched Malvo's fingerprint
found at the Benjamin Tasker Middle School site with one lifted from the
liquor store scene. After further research into Malvo's background it
was discovered he had close ties to a John Allen Muhammad.
During the period of the attacks, the North American media devoted
enormous amounts of air time and newspaper space to each new attack. By
the middle of October 2002, all-news television networks were providing
live coverage of the aftermath of each new attack, with the coverage
often lasting for hours at a time. The Fox show “America's Most Wanted”
devoted an entire episode to the shooters in hopes of aiding in their
Despite an apparent
lack of progress publicly, federal authorities were making significant
headway in their investigation and developed leads in Washington state,
Alabama, and New Jersey. They learned that Muhammad’s ex-wife, who had
obtained a protective order against him, lived near the Capital Beltway
in Clinton, a community in suburban Prince George's County, Maryland.
Information was also developed about an automobile purchased in New
Jersey by Muhammad.
Much to their shock, police
discovered that the New Jersey license plates issued to Muhammad on the
1990 Chevrolet Caprice had been checked by radio patrol cars several
times near shooting locations in various jurisdictions in several states,
but the car had not been stopped because law enforcement computer
networks did not indicate that it was connected to any criminal activity
and they were focused exclusively on the "white van."
On October 3, D.C. police stopped the Caprice for a "minor
traffic infraction," two hours prior to the shooting of Pascal Charlot,
after which witnesses reported seeing a Caprice near the scene.
On October 8, Baltimore city police investigated a dark blue Chevrolet
Caprice with a person sleeping inside parked near the Jones Falls
Expressway at 28th St. in Baltimore. The officers were concerned that
the driver's license was from Washington state and the vehicle tag was
from New Jersey. Despite the fact that the vehicle was suspicious enough
for them to investigate, and the fact that the vehicle fit the
description of a vehicle associated with the shooting in D.C. five days
earlier, the officers did not question the occupants extensively, nor
did they search the vehicle.
Authorities were quick to
issue a media alert to the public to be on the lookout for a dark blue
Chevrolet Caprice sedan. For the public, as well as for law enforcement
agencies throughout the region, this was a major change from the
mysterious “white box truck” earlier sought based upon reported
The Chevrolet Caprice was also later
revealed to have formerly been used as an undercover police car used in
Investigators and the prosecution at trial suggested that
Muhammad intended to kill his ex-wife Mildred, who had estranged him
from his children. According to this theory, she would appear to be just
another random victim of the snipers. Muhammad frequented the
neighborhood where she lived during the attacks, and some of the
incidents occurred nearby. Additionally, he had earlier made threats
against her. Mildred herself made the claim that she was his intended
target. However Judge LeRoy Millette Jr. prevented prosecutors from
presenting that theory during the trial, saying that a link had not been
While imprisoned, John Lee Malvo
wrote a number of erratic diatribes about what he termed "jihad" against
the United States. "I have been accused on my mission. Allah knows I'm
gonna suffer now", he wrote. Because his rants and drawings featured not
only such figures as Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, but also
characters from the film series The Matrix, these musings were dismissed
as immaterial. Some investigators reportedly said they had all but
eliminated terrorist ties or political ideologies as a motive.
Nonetheless, in at least one of the ensuing murder trials, a Virginia
court found Muhammad guilty of killing "pursuant to the direction or
order" of terrorism.
2006 testimony at the trial of Muhammad, Malvo testified that the aim of
the killing spree was to kidnap children for the purpose of extorting
money from the government and to "set up a camp to train children how to
terrorize cities", with the ultimate goal being to "shut things down"
across the United States.
Before trial, Chief Moose engaged in a publicity tour for his book on
the sniper investigation, including appearances on "Dateline NBC", "Today",
and "The Tonight Show". "Personally, I don't understand why someone
who's been in law enforcement his whole life would potentially damage
our case or compromise a jury pool by doing this," Assistant Prince
William Commonwealth's Attorney James Willett told The Washington Post.
In accordance with United States law, each man was
provided free legal counsel at public expense since they were both
indigent. Change of venue requests by defense attorneys were granted,
and the first trials were held in the independent cities of Chesapeake
and Virginia Beach in southeastern Virginia, more than 100 miles from
the closest alleged attack (in Ashland, Virginia).
During their trials in the fall of 2003, involving two of the victims in
Virginia, Muhammad and Malvo were each found guilty of murder and
weapons charges. The jury in Muhammad's case recommended that he be
sentenced to death, while Malvo's jury recommended a sentence of life in
prison without parole instead of the death penalty. The judges concurred
in both cases. Alabama law enforcement authorities allege that the
snipers engaged in a series of previously unconnected attacks prior to
October 2 in Montgomery, Alabama. Other charges are also pending in
Maryland and other communities in Virginia.
initial convictions and sentencing, Will Jarvis, a Virginia prosecutor
in Prince William County, stated he would wait to decide whether to try
Malvo on capital charges in his jurisdiction until the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled on whether juveniles may be subject to the penalty of
execution. While that decision in an unrelated case was still pending
before the high court, in October 2004, under a plea-agreement, Malvo
plead guilty in another case in Spotsylvania County, Virginia for
another murder to avoid a possible death penalty sentence, and agreed to
additional sentencing of life imprisonment without parole. Malvo had yet
to face trial in Prince William County, Virginia.
March 2005, the Supreme Court ruled in Roper v. Simmons that the Eighth
Amendment prohibits execution for crimes committed when under the age of
18. In light of this Supreme Court decision, the prosecutors in Prince
William County have decided not to pursue the charges against Malvo.
Prosecutors in Maryland, Louisiana and Alabama were still interested in
putting both Malvo and Muhammad on trial. As Malvo was 17 when he
committed the crimes, he will no longer face the death penalty, but
still may be extradited to Alabama, Louisiana, and other states for
prosecution. At the time of the Roper v. Simmons ruling, Malvo was 20
years old, and was held at Virginia's maximum security Red Onion State
Prison in Pound in Wise County, Virginia.
Muhammad's death penalty was affirmed by the Virginia
Supreme Court on April 22, 2005, when it ruled that he could be
sentenced to death because the murder was part of an act of terrorism.
This line of reasoning was based on the handwritten note demanding
$10,000,000. The court rejected an argument by defense lawyers that
Muhammad could not be sentenced to death because he was not the
triggerman in the killings linked to him and Malvo.
"Muhammad, with his sniper team partner, Malvo,
randomly selected innocent victims" Virginia Supreme Court Justice
Donald Lemons wrote in the decision. "With calculation, extensive
planning, premeditation and ruthless disregard for life, Muhammad
carried out his cruel scheme of terror."
There has also been speculation that authorities in
Virginia may proceed with what is termed a "backup case" against
Muhammad. The death sentence is under appeal. It is not clear how many
other jurisdictions will be allowed to try him on the capital charges
they have pending before he is executed. Prior to extradition to
Maryland, he was held at the maximum security Sussex I State Prison near
Waverly in Sussex County, Virginia, which houses Virginia's death row
In May 2005, Virginia and Maryland announced that they had reached
agreements to allow Maryland to proceed with prosecuting charges there,
where the most shootings occurred. There were media reports that Malvo
and his legal team were willing to negotiate his cooperation, and he
waived extradition to Maryland.
Muhammad and his legal
team responded by fighting extradition to Maryland. Muhammad's legal
team was ultimately unsuccessful, and extradition was ordered by a
Virginia judge in August 2005.
Maryland has agreed to transfer Muhammad and Malvo back to the
Commonwealth of Virginia after their trials. A date for Muhammad's
pending execution in Virginia has not been set.
pled guilty to six murders and confessed to others in other states while
being interviewed in Maryland and while testifying there against
Muhammad. Malvo was sentenced to six consecutive life terms without the
possibility of parole.
On May 30, 2006, a Maryland
jury found John Allen Muhammad guilty of six counts of murder in
Maryland. In return, he was sentenced to six consecutive life terms
without possibility of parole on June 1, 2006.
6, 2008, it was revealed that Muhammad has asked prosecutors in a letter
to help him end legal appeals of his conviction and death sentence "so
that you can murder this innocent black man." An appeal filed by
Muhammad's defense lawyers in April 2008 cited evidence of brain damage
that may render Muhammad incompetent to make legal decisions, and that
he should not have been allowed to represent himself at his Virginia
In John Allen Muhammad's May 2006 trial in Montgomery
County, Maryland, Lee Boyd Malvo took the stand and confessed to a more
detailed version of the pair's plans. Malvo, after extensive
psychological counseling, admitted that he was lying at the earlier
Virginia trial where he had admitted to being the triggerman for every
shooting. Malvo claimed that he had said this in order to protect John
Allen Muhammad from a potential death sentence, and because it was more
difficult to obtain the death penalty for a minor. Malvo said that he
wanted to do what little he could for the families of the victims by
letting the full story be told. In his two days of testimony, Malvo
outlined many very detailed aspects of all the shootings.
Part of his testimony concerned John Allen Muhammad's complete
multiphase plan. His plan consisted of three phases in the Washington,
D.C. and Baltimore metro areas. Phase one consisted of meticulously
planning, mapping, and practicing their locations around the D.C. area.
This way after each shooting they would be able to quickly leave the
area on a predetermined path, and move on to the next location. John
Allen Muhammad's goal in Phase One was to kill 6 people a day for 30
days. Malvo went on to describe how Phase One did not go as planned due
to heavy traffic and the lack of a clear shot and/or getaway at
was meant to be moved up to Baltimore. Malvo described how this phase
was close to being implemented, but never was carried out. Phase Two was
intended to begin by killing a pregnant woman by shooting her in the
stomach. The next step would have been to shoot and kill a Baltimore
police officer. Then, at the officer's funeral, they were to create
several improvised explosive devices complete with shrapnel. These
explosives were intended to kill a large number of police, since many
police would attend another officer's funeral.
last phase was to take place very shortly after, if not during, Phase
Two. The third phase was to extort several million dollars from the
United States government. This money would be used to finance a larger
plan. The plan was to travel north into Canada. Along the way they would
stop in YMCAs and orphanages recruiting other impressionable young boys
with no parents or guidance. John Allen Muhammad thought he could act as
their father figure as he did with Lee Boyd Malvo. Once he recruited a
large number of young boys and made his way up to Canada, he would begin
their training. Malvo described how John Allen Muhammad intended to
train all these boys with weapons and stealth, as he had been taught.
Finally, after their training was complete, John Allen Muhammad would
send them out across the United States to carry out mass shootings in
many different cities, just as he had done in Washington and Baltimore.
These attacks would be coordinated, and were intended to send the
country into chaos.
A series of trial exhibits
indicated that Malvo and Muhammad were motivated by an affinity for
A self-portrait of Malvo in the cross hairs of a gun scope shouting, 'ALLAH
AKBAR!' The word 'SALAAM' scrawled vertically. A lyric from Bob Marley's
Natural Mystic 'Many more will have to suffer. Many more will have to
die. Don't ask me why.'
"Exhibit 65-016: A portrait of
Saddam Hussein with the words 'INSHALLAH' and 'The Protector,'
surrounded by rockets labeled 'chem' and 'nuk.'
65-043: Father and son portrait of Malvo and Muhammad. 'We will kill
them all. Jihad.'
"Exhibit 65-056: A self-portrait of
Malvo as sniper, lying in wait, with his rifle. 'JIHAD' written in bold
letters. . . .
"Exhibit 65-067: A suicide bomber
labeled 'Hamas' walking into a McDonald's restaurant. Another drawing of
the Twin Towers burning captioned: '85 percent chance Zionists did this.'
More scrawls: 'ALLAH AKBAR,' 'JIHAD' and 'Islam will explode.'
"Exhibit 65-103: A lion accompanies chapter and verse from the Koran ('Sura
2:190'): 'Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you and slay them
wherever ye catch them.'
"Exhibit 65-109: Portrait of
Osama bin Laden, captioned 'Servant of Allah.'
65-117: The White House drawn in crosshairs, surrounded by missiles,
with a warning: 'Sep. 11 we will ensure will look like a picnic to you'
and 'you will bleed to death little by little.' . . .
"Exhibit 65-101: Malvo's thought for the day: 'Islam the only true
guidance, the way of peace.'"
Regulatory, civil actions
According to the Seattle Times in a story of April 20, 2003, Muhammad
had honed his marksmanship at Bull's Eye's firing range. The newspaper
also reported that Malvo told investigators that he shoplifted the 35-inch-long
carbine from the "supposedly secure store."
to U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)
officials, the store and its owners had a long history of firearms sales
and records violations and a file 283 pages thick. In July 2003, the ATF
revoked the federal firearms license of Brian Borgelt, a former Staff
Sgt. with the U.S. Army Rangers and owner of Bull's Eye Shooter Supply.
Later that month he transferred ownership of the store to a friend and
continued to own the building and operate the adjacent shooting gallery.
On January 16, 2003, the Legal Action Project of the Brady Center to
Prevent Gun Violence, on behalf of the families of many of the victims
of the Beltway sniper attacks who were killed (including Hong Im
Ballenger, "Sonny" Buchanan, Jr., Linda Franklin, Conrad Johnson, Sarah
Ramos and James L. Premkumar Walekar) as well as two victims who
survived the shooting (Rupinder "Benny" Oberoi and 13-year old Iran
Brown) filed a civil lawsuit against Bull's Eye Shooter Supply and
Bushmaster Firearms, Inc. of Windham, Maine, the gun distributor and
manufacturer that made the rifle used in the crime spree, as well as
Borgelt, Muhammad and Malvo. Muhammad, who had a criminal record of
domestic battery, and Malvo, a minor, were each legally prohibited from
claimed that Bull's Eye Shooter Supply ran its gun store in Tacoma,
Washington, "in such a grossly negligent manner that scores of its guns
routinely 'disappeared' from its store and it kept such shoddy records
that it could not even account for the Bushmaster rifle used in the
sniper shootings when asked by federal agents for records of sale for
the weapon." It was alleged that the dealer could not account for
hundreds of guns received from manufacturers in the years immediately
prior to the Beltway sniper attacks. It was also claimed that Bull's Eye
continued to sell guns in the same irresponsible manner even after
Muhammad and Malvo were caught and found to have acquired the weapon
there. Bushmaster was included in the suit because it allegedly
continued to sell guns to Bull's Eye as a dealer despite an awareness of
its record-keeping violations.
The case had been set
for trial in April 2005. After losing several decisions as the case made
its way through the courts, Bull's Eye contributed $2 million and
Bushmaster contributed $500,000 to an out-of-court settlement.
Bushmaster also agreed to educate its dealers on safer business
After the settlement was announced, WTOP
radio in Washington, D.C., reported that Sonia Wills, mother of victim
Conrad Johnson, said her family took part in the lawsuit more to send a
message than to collect money. "I think a message was delivered that you
should be responsible and accountable for the actions of irresponsible
people when you make these guns and put them in their hands," she said.
Effects on society
Fear, targets outdoors
During the weeks that the attacks occurred, fear of the apparently
random shootings generated a great deal of public apprehension,
especially at gas stations and the parking lots of large stores. People
pumping gas at gas stations would walk around their cars quickly, hoping
that they would be a harder target to hit. Some gas stations put up
tarpaulins around the awnings over the gas pumps so people would feel
safer. Also, many people would attempt to fill their gas at the Naval
Base of the National Naval Medical Center, as they felt it was safer
inside the guarded fence.
After the specific threat
against children was delivered, many school groups curtailed field trips
and outdoors athletic activities based upon safety concerns. At the
height of the public fear, some school districts, such as Henrico after
the Ponderosa shooting, simply closed school for the day. Extra police
officers were placed in schools because of this fear. In addition to
this, Joel Schumacher's film Phone Booth was deemed potentially
upsetting enough that its release was delayed for months, although it
bore little resemblance to the shootings beyond the villain being a
sniper. Reportedly, when news of a sniper attack made the nightly news,
people that had been "hiding" in their homes would make a large exodus
to their local gas station, which they had been avoiding as long as
possible in order to not be a target. It is not known if this is an
urban legend, or an actual change in behavior for a significant portion
of the local population during the affected time.