CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- Preparing for a keep-them-guessing strategy in their Washington-area sniper plot, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo scouted more than 100 potential shooting sites in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, a psychiatrist for the teen-age sniper suspect testified yesterday.
"I believe there were over 100 locations in this entire area," Dr. Neil Blumberg told jurors in Malvo's capital murder trial.
The plan was to "go to different places and keep the authorities not knowing where the next shooting was going to occur," the psychiatrist said on cross-examination.
Blumberg, who evaluated Malvo's mental condition at the time of last year's shootings, spent more than 50 hours with him in the Fairfax County, Va., jail. He is one of two defense psychiatrists who concluded that Malvo was so brainwashed by Muhammad that not only did he merge his identity into Muhammad's, but he also could not distinguish right from wrong.
Malvo told Blumberg that "Muhammad's plan was to shoot between three and five children -- not to kill them, no head shots" -- at a Bowie school the morning a 13-year-old boy was wounded there. "The plan was to have a ripple effect," Blumberg testified.
The snipers scouted three schools, but Muhammad selected Benjamin Tasker Middle because he found the woods and terrain to his liking, Blumberg testified.
Muhammad and Malvo stayed around the school overnight. The next morning, Oct. 7 last year, Iran Brown was shot in the abdomen from what police described as a lair in the woods.
No other child was shot that day. Blumberg told jurors that Malvo was uncomfortable with the school shooting.
"But Muhammad said, 'Let's do it.' He went along with it," Blumberg testified.
He said that Malvo knew the shootings were crimes but that the teen-ager had developed a "pathological relationship" with Muhammad. Muhammad, a former soldier, justified the shootings as morally correct in light of his "righteous cause," a view the brainwashed Malvo parroted, he testified.
Mental health experts said one of the goals of the sniper plot was to extort $10 million from the government and use it to start a utopian society in Canada or another nation. The snipers told police in phone calls and notes last year that the killings, which claimed 10 lives in the Washington area, wouldn't stop until the money was paid.
Other goals were fueling a quasi-religious revolution to free oppressed black people and reuniting Muhammad with his three children, whom he had lost in a custody battle.
Malvo is on trial in the fatal shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, gunned down at a Home Depot parking lot outside Falls Church on Oct. 14 last year. She was one of 13 people shot in three weeks by a sniper. Malvo was 17 at the time of the shooting but is being tried as an adult and faces the possibility of execution if convicted.
Blumberg said Malvo told him that he was the spotter in the Iran Brown shooting and in all but two of the approximately 20 shootings the pair is suspected of committing around the country.
But that account, like others, does not square with that of Malvo's initial account, given shortly after he and Muhammad were arrested Oct. 24 last year.
In a confession to police, Malvo took credit for pulling the trigger at Tasker Middle. He told a Supermax guard in Baltimore that the original plan was to shoot a bus load of students.
Blumberg said Malvo falsely confessed to authorities because he had to protect his "father" -- Muhammad. Although Muhammad told many people that he was Malvo's father, he had met the boy about two years before the sniper rampage. Jurors recommended last month that Muhammad be sentenced to die for his role in the sniper slayings.
"He didn't really care about his own life. Being without Muhammad was worse than death," Blumberg said. Particularly striking, the Maryland psychiatrist said, was that as Malvo spoke, "there's no emotion at all; it's just the facts he is relating."
Some details Malvo provided to the psychiatrists and psychologist who evaluated him do not mesh with what witnesses observed. For example, Blumberg said, Malvo told him that Muhammad shot Pascal Charlot on Oct. 3 last year on a Northwest Washington street from a parking lot. Witnesses, however, said they saw a blue Chevrolet Caprice matching the description of the sniper suspects' car on the street.
On Monday, when the trial starts its 21st day, the defense will rest and prosecutors will start a rebuttal that will include two mental health experts expected to say that Malvo did not have a mental defect that would render him legally insane. They will also present information from three more shootings geared to "show the jury that he lies," Raymond F. Morrogh, a chief deputy prosecutor, told Fairfax County Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush.
Malvo told mental health experts for the defense that he did two shootings -- killing Keenya Cook on Feb. 16 last year, when she opened the door to her aunt's home in Tacoma, Wash., and was shot in the face, and Conrad Johnson on Oct. 22 last year in Aspen Hill in the Ride-On bus he was getting ready to drive. That led Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. to wonder aloud whether Malvo named those slayings because he knew he could not be executed for them.
Maryland and Washington bar death sentences for anyone younger than 18. Malvo was 16 when Cook was killed, 17 when Johnson was killed.
But Muhammad Rashid, testifying in October at Muhammad's trial, identified Malvo as the person who shot him, then rifled through his pockets Sept. 15 last year as he was locking up his Brandywine liquor store. Prosecutors also said there is more information they want to bring out about the wounding Sept. 5 last year of Paul LaRuffa, who outside his Clinton restaurant was repeatedly shot and robbed of $3,600 and the laptop computer police found in Muhammad and Malvo's car with shooting sites and maps on it.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun