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Archive for Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Detective: Suspect in sniper case freely confessed to shootings

April 29, 2003

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— In chilling detail, a detective said Monday that sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo laughed as he admitted to two of last fall's deadly shootings. She also said the teenager was read his rights before he confessed.

Prosecutors said Malvo's gloating demeanor is evidence that he freely confessed and was not coerced by police. The defense contends Malvo's attorneys were not present during the Nov. 7 police interrogation and that he made it clear to police he did not want to talk about the shootings.

The testimony came during a hearing on whether Malvo's confession should be barred as evidence. The hearing will continue this morning.

Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush could throw out all or parts of the confession or retain it as evidence in its entirety.

Malvo and John Muhammad, 42, are accused in at least 20 shootings, including 13 deaths, in Virginia, Maryland, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Washington, D.C. Both could face the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors have said the shootings were part of a scheme to extort $10 million from the government. The two were captured at a Maryland rest stop Oct. 24, and Malvo arrived in Fairfax County on Nov. 7.

Malvo seemed amused

During the questioning that day, Malvo recounted two deadly attacks, including the Oct. 14 shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot store in front of her husband, Fairfax County homicide Detective June Boyle said.

"I asked where he shot her. He laughed and pointed at his head," Boyle testified.

Malvo also "was laughing about" the fatal shooting of a man mowing grass in Maryland, Boyle said. "After he shot the man the lawn mower just kept going down the street," she recalled him saying.

Virginia Commonwealth's Atty. Robert F. Horan, left, speaks in
Fairfax County Court as sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo sits watching
in this courtroom artist's sketch. Malvo's attorney has asked the
judge to throw out Malvo's confession in last fall's sniper
shooting spree. Malvo is charged with capital murder in the murder
of Linda Franklin in Falls Church, Va., in October.

Virginia Commonwealth's Atty. Robert F. Horan, left, speaks in Fairfax County Court as sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo sits watching in this courtroom artist's sketch. Malvo's attorney has asked the judge to throw out Malvo's confession in last fall's sniper shooting spree. Malvo is charged with capital murder in the murder of Linda Franklin in Falls Church, Va., in October.

James L. "Sonny" Buchanan, 39, of Arlington, Va., was slain Oct. 3 as he mowed grass outside an auto dealership in Rockville, Md.

According to Boyle, Malvo also chortled about a shot at a boy that missed its mark. She said Malvo claimed the shot was so close "it might have even parted his hair."

Prosecutors would only say that missed shooting occurred in Maryland. The only known miss occurred Oct. 2, when the window of a Michaels craft store was shot out in an Aspen Hill, Md., shopping mall.

Procedural questions

Prosecutors do not dispute that Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the interrogation, initially asked police, "Do I get to see my attorneys?" and quickly added, "My attorneys told me not to say anything to the cops until they got there."

But they say those statements fall well short of the clear demand for a lawyer needed to stop questioning.

Boyle said she told Malvo numerous times he had the right to remain silent and have an attorney present during questioning. She said Malvo responded, "If I don't want to answer, I won't."

Malvo also signed a waiver of his Miranda rights, which guarantee the right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer.

Authorities say he signed with an "X" because he may have feared his signature could be used against him as a handwriting sample.

Malvo's court-appointed guardian, Todd Petit, testified that police turned him aside when he sought to stop the interrogation. Prosecutors countered that Petit's appointment did not become official until Nov. 8.

Malvo asked when he arrived at Fairfax County if he could see his attorneys. Boyle testified that she said he could.

At that point, Boyle said, she advised him that federal charges had been dropped and he was facing new charges in Virginia.

Malvo then requested two veggie burgers and Boyle said it took about an hour to find them. He ate the burgers and they engaged in small talk about vegetarian diets and philosophy until the conversation turned to the shootings, Boyle said. At that point she read him his Miranda rights, she said.

Prosecutors say they have a variety of circumstantial evidence, including DNA, fingerprint and ballistics evidence to link Malvo to the crime, but the prosecutors' job will be much easier if the confession is allowed. There are no eye witnesses to the shootings.

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