Friday, May 26, 2006

Malvo To Muhammad: 'You Made Me A Monster'

Muhammad Planned Extensive Campaign, Malvo Testifies

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- Sniper John Allen Muhammad had grandiose plans to create a community of children in Canada who would be trained in weapons and explosives before being sent to terrorize cities and "shut things down," accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo testified Tuesday. At the end of an extraordinary day of testimony, Malvo directly confronted Muhammad, whom he once viewed as a father figure. "I think he's a coward," Malvo said when asked about his current feelings toward Muhammad. He then turned directly to Muhammad and said, "You took me into your house and you made me a monster." Malvo said he falsely took responsibility after his arrest for pulling the trigger in all the sniper killings to protect Muhammad. "I would die for Mr. Muhammad at that time," Malvo said. Earlier, Malvo testified calmly during Muhammad's second trial related to the October 2002 sniper shootings. Muhammad is on trial on murder charges for six Maryland sniper shootings. Malvo said Muhammad devised a two-phase plan to shoot as many as six random people each day for 30 days in the Washington area and then target children and police officers with explosives. They planned to place explosives on school buses in Baltimore, kill a Baltimore police officer and then set off explosives packed with ball bearings at the officer's funeral. When Malvo asked Muhammad why, "he said for the sheer terror of it. The worst thing you can do to people is aim at their children," Malvo testified.
Muhammad described the plans to establish a Canadian commune midway through the sniper spree, Malvo testified.
After the Oct. 9, 2002, slaying of Dean Myers in Manassas, Va., Muhammad was upset that the two were not meeting their self-imposed quota of six shootings a day. Malvo said he became upset and refused to talk to Muhammad. At one point, Malvo said he put on headphones, listened to music and refused to acknowledge Muhammad.
Muhammad eventually kicked Malvo out of the car and Malvo said he broke down, sobbing uncontrollably. Muhammad later came back for Malvo and detailed plans to use the ransom they planned to get to buy a couple of acres and recruit 140 homeless children to "continue the mission". Muhammad said training the children as Malvo had been trained would allow them to "shut things down," Malvo testified.
The accomplice also described how he spent the night in a Baltimore cemetery, training a Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle on a fast food restaurant, waiting for pregnant women. He said he saw four, but couldn't bring himself to shoot.
Malvo also gave a description of the Oct. 7, 2002, shooting of 13-year-old Iran Brown outside Tasker Middle School in Bowie. Malvo told the court that the plan was for him to shoot five children as they came off a school bus. But the bus never showed up, so he targeted Brown instead.
Malvo paused and blinked hard briefly while discussing the shooting of Premkumar Walekar after hearing the sobs of Walekar's widow from the courtroom gallery.
Malvo also described the difficulty in finding a clean shot that would not be seen by witnesses. They tried to fire a shot near Howard University in Washington on Oct. 3 -- the day in which five people were shot and killed -- but there were too many people and they ended up settling on a location in the District near the Maryland line. Malvo testified that Muhammad "wanted a shot in D.C."
The next day, they planned to fire six shots in the Fredericksburg, Va., area. But they couldn't find a good shot, Malvo said.
"We spent hours along Route 3 (near Fredericksburg) and couldn't find anything. There were too many witnesses," Malvo said.
They finally settled on taking a shot in the parking lot of a Michaels craft store, though the two debated the best place to take a shot.
Malvo said Muhammad knew as soon as he fired that shot that the victim, Caroline Seawell, would survive.
"He told me she was not going to die but it was enough to let them know it was going to continue," Malvo said.
Muhammad, 45, and Malvo, 21, already have been convicted in Virginia. Muhammad received a death sentence while Malvo was given a life term. Prosecutors in Maryland have said they are pursuing a second trial in case the Virginia conviction is overturned on appeal and to provide justice in Montgomery County, where six of the 10 killings occurred.
Malvo said Montgomery County was the perfect place to start the spree because it has lower, upper and middle class people, mostly white, making it perfect to terrorize.
The last time the two came face-to-face was in October 2003, when Malvo was brought in at Muhammad's first trial. Malvo refused to testify, invoking his constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Malvo, wearing a dark sport coat and white collared shirt, appeared nervous but was expressionless when he entered the courtroom, looking generally in Muhammad's direction but not making direct eye contact. He sat in the witness box for several minutes before being sworn in, watching the lawyers and Muhammad during a bench conference and occasionally staring out blankly at a courtroom gallery of more than 150 spectators.
Before testifying in front of the jury, Malvo told the judge that he intends to plead guilty to murder charges against him in Montgomery County and testify against Muhammad as part of a plea.
Muhammad, who is acting as his own lawyer, said in his opening statement that both he and Malvo were innocent and that they were merely roaming the area looking for Muhammad's children. Muhammad, who still refers to Malvo as "my son," has said the pair were shocked when they were arrested Oct. 24, 2002, at a western Maryland rest stop.
Malvo also gave a detailed account a September 2002 shooting of two women at a Montgomery, Ala., liquor store. He began his testimony by describing meeting Muhammad and his son John Jr. in May 2000 and being impressed at their father-son bond.
"The best way to explain it is I would return to (an electronics shop Muhammad frequented) every time I could to see if they were there," Malvo said.
Malvo grew up in the Caribbean and was largely abandoned by his parents. He said a few months after meeting Muhammad, he "basically took me under his wing. He began introducing me as his son."
He said Muhammad introduced him to the Nation of Islam and said he was told that for many incidents in history, "the explanation was that the white man is the devil."
Asked by prosecutor Katherine Winfree, "Did you come to love Mr. Muhammad?" Malvo responded "yes," with his voice choking.
"Did you tell him that?" Winfree asked.
"Yes," he replied, his voice again choking.
Malvo said he was so distraught after a six-hour conversation in July 2002 when Muhammad detailed his plans that Malvo played Russian roulette, crying in a bathtub. He pulled the trigger several times before realizing the next trigger pull would be fatal.
"I just broke down. I couldn't pull the trigger," Malvo said.
Malvo said he shot three people during the spree, but that Muhammad was the triggerman in the others. In most cases, Malvo acted as the spotter with Muhammad firing from the trunk of their modified Chevrolet Caprice. Using two-way radios, Malvo would tell Muhammad when it was clear to shoot and then watch the victim fall in the Caprice's side mirror. Muhammad would then scramble back into the driver's seat, and the pair would drive off. When Malvo fired, he shot from outside the Caprice.
Malvo said Muhammad planned to follow the terror campaign with the abduction of his three children whom he had lost in a custody battle. Malvo tried to dissuade Muhammad and suggested they should simply get the children and leave the country.
Muhammad trained Malvo in weapons, kept him on a rigorous diet that allowed only one meal each day, and introduced him to the teachings of the Nation of Islam, Malvo said. Muhammad hated America and thought white people were "the devil." He eventually became impressed with his young charge, saying after Malvo calmly shot a man at an Ashland, Va., restaurant, "I've created a ... monster."
Malvo's lawyers contended Muhammad brainwashed the teenager and turned him into a killer. They also said that well after the arrest, Malvo never fully detached himself from Muhammad despite deep anger toward him.
"Being here, I know more about what happened," said Mary Branch, the friend of a sniper victim. "Malvo, I thought, he was more controlled by Muhammad. But he had a large part of the situation also."
Malvo's testimony came as prosecutors prepare to conclude their case against Muhammad.
Malvo's testimony will take an even more compelling twist when he is cross-examined by Muhammad, who is acting as his own attorney. Muhammad continues to refer to Malvo as "my son" and told jurors in his opening statement that he intends to prove Malvo's innocence as well as his own.
The pair is also suspected of earlier shootings in Maryland, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana and Washington state.

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