Judge: Malvo can be tried as an adult


Fairfax County Sheriff's deputies escort John Lee Malvo, out of Juvenille Court Wednesday, in Fairfax, Va. Prosecutors in the case against Malvo revealed new information Wednesday about messages to police during the October 2002 shooting spree. A judge ruled Wednesday that the 17-year-old sniper suspect can be tried as an adult, making him eligible for the death penalty.

(AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)
Published: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 12:23 a.m.
FAIRFAX, Va. - Citing "strong" circumstantial evidence, a judge said Wednesday that 17-year-old John Lee Malvo can be tried as an adult in the sniper case, making him eligible for the death penalty.
Juvenile Court Judge Charles Maxfield made his decision after a hearing in which prosecutors said Malvo tried to extort $10 million from authorities during the killing spree and that fingerprints on the murder weapon and other evidence tied the teen-ager to four attacks, three of them fatal.
"There is no eyewitness at any of the four crime scenes, but the circumstantial evidence is quite strong," Maxfield said.
Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, 42, are accused of killing 13 people and wounding five others in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., last year. They are being tried first in Virginia in separate trials.
The extortion allegation is a key element of a Virginia anti-terrorism law that allows the death penalty for killers convicted of trying to intimidate the public or coerce the government. Malvo also is charged under a statute that allows a death sentence for multiple murders.
"They wanted to negotiate for money," prosecutor Robert F. Horan said. "They said 'If you want us to stop killing people give us the money.' If that is not intent to intimidate government, I don't know what is."
Defense lawyers argued the evidence was insufficient because no eyewitnesses placed Malvo at any of the crime scenes.
Earlier, a detective who interviewed Malvo for six hours after his arrest this past fall identified his voice on tape recordings of two threatening phone calls to authorities during the attacks. Both tapes were played in court.
"I talked to him long enough to know he's very smooth and well-spoken. I'd know that voice immediately," Fairfax County police Detective June Boyle testified. She described Malvo as calm, relaxed and even "jovial on occasion" during their interview.
Defense lawyers challenged whether the caller was even male.
One of the calls, made Oct. 21, was monitored by FBI agent Jackie Dalrymple. She said someone claiming to be a sniper laid out non-negotiable terms for ending the killing spree.
The caller ordered police to hold a news conference and say they believed they had caught the sniper "like a duck in a noose." Otherwise, the caller told police, "be sure to know that we will not deviate" from previous threats to kill more people.
Other testimony focused on a note found one day after the call near the Silver Spring, Md., location where bus driver Conrad Johnson was slain.
Montgomery County forensic expert David McGill testified that the note read: "For you Mr. police, call me God. Do not release to the press. Can you hear us now! Do not play these childish games with us. You know our demands."
Horan said the note also said Johnson was killed because police hadn't responded quickly enough to earlier demands for money.
It told police, "Your incompetence has cost you another life," Horan said.
The note reiterated that the snipers wanted police to use the "duck in a noose" phrase at a news conference "to let us know you have received our demands." Montgomery County, Md., Police Chief Charles Moose later read the cryptic message at a news conference.
Malvo is charged with the Oct. 14 slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, a former Gainesville resident, outside a Home Depot store in Falls Church. In all, Horan said fingerprints on the murder weapon, ballistics evidence and the notes and phone calls link Malvo to three fatal sniper attacks and a shooting outside an Ashland restaurant that left a patron critically wounded.
Muhammad faces trial in October in neighboring Prince William County for the Oct. 9 slaying of Dean Meyers at a Manassas gas station.

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