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At Muhammad Trial, Malvo Describes Sniper Life


For the first time yesterday, Lee Boyd Malvo testified about his role in the series of sniper shootings. Those shootings terrorized the Washington, D.C. area in 2002. Today, his tutor and accomplice John Allen Muhammad will continue cross-examining Malvo. Muhammad is the defendant acting as his own lawyer at a trial in Maryland, which comes after he already received a death sentence in Virginia.

NPR's Libby Lewis reports.

LIBBY LEWIS reporting:

Lee Boyd Malvo was 17 when he became a sniper. He's 21 now. He has nothing to gain from testifying. Malvo has nothing to lose, either. He's already serving a life sentence in Virginia. This week, Malvo agreed to plead guilty to the six murders in Montgomery County, Maryland. Each of them carries a life term in prison without parole.

So yesterday, Lee Boyd Malvo did what he said he wanted to do, testify against the man he said turned him into a monster. I'm here to tell the story, he said, to tell the truth, face Muhammad - and for what it's worth, face the victims. He had some new revelations about the sniper slayings. He said Muhammad planned a phase two to create more damage and deaths. He wanted to use explosives to attack school buses, hospitals, children's hospitals. He wanted to kill a policeman, then set off a bomb at his funeral.

Malvo said Muhammad had already obtained some C4 explosives. He said Muhammad was frustrated and wanted to move to phase two the night they were arrested, October 24, 2002. Malvo told how Muhammad took him under his wing when Malvo was 15. He said he loved him, trusted him, believed him. When Muhammad lost custody of his own children, he began introducing Malvo as his son.

Muhammad talked about his children every day. He would say we have to find the children. He learned they were in the Washington, D.C. area, and he began teaching Malvo sniper techniques like concealment and spotting. Why were you training? Maryland State Attorney Katherine Winfree asked Malvo. Malvo thought it was about getting Muhammad's children back, but he was wrong. He said Muhammad told him we're going to go to Washington, D.C. and terrorize those people.

His plan was six shots every day for a month. That was the first phase. Malvo said, I asked him why we were doing this. I just tried to explain, let's just get the children and leave. He said no, this is the way we're going to do it. After that, Malvo said he sat in the bathroom crying with a .22 caliber handgun. He played Russian roulette. He pulled the trigger four times. He knew the fifth chamber held the round. He said I just couldn't do it.

He couldn't back out, either. He'd made a bond. Malvo walked the jury through each of the sniper shootings in pain-staking detail. Malvo said he shot three people, one of them was Iran Brown, the 13 year old shot outside a school in Bowie, Maryland. He said Muhammad was the triggerman in the other shootings. Malvo said his role was spotter. I told him when he had to go, and he took the shot.

When Malvo shot and wounded Jeffrey Hopper in Ashland, Virginia, Muhammad said to him, you were calm. Using an expletive, he said I've created a monster. Malvo threw those words back at Muhammad when State's attorney Winfree asked him how did he felt about Muhammad now. I think he is a coward. Malvo turned to look at Muhammad and he said, you took me into your home and you made me a monster. You clothed me, you fed me, you took me in as your child. Muhammad began his cross-examination of Malvo late yesterday. He only called him son once.

Libby Lewis, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Libby Lewis
Libby Lewis is an award-winning reporter on the National Desk whose pieces on issues of law, society, criminal justice, the military and social policy can be heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Day to Day, Weekend Edition Saturday, and other NPR shows.