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City targeted, Malvo says

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Unveiling a master plan that dwarfed the October 2002 random sniper shootings, Lee Boyd Malvo told jurors yesterday that had he and John Allen Muhammad not been caught, the two planned to make Baltimore the center of a murderous campaign in which they would have used explosives against children and police.

Malvo, 21, said the scheme was "Phase 2" of a plan to kill one police officer with a weapon other than the .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle the pair was using in the Washington-area sniper rampage, then set off explosives among mourners.

"Then dozens of officers would get to the funeral and you would have improvised explosives," Malvo said.

More explosives would target ambulances that rushed to the scene of the carnage, Malvo told a full and hushed courtroom. That and the plan to kill three busloads of schoolchildren were to begin Oct. 24, 2002, but were thwarted by the arrest of Muhammad and Malvo before dawn that morning at an Interstate 70 rest stop near Frederick.

They had planned to leave the rest stop after Muhammad's nap to shoot another sniper victim outside an Outback steakhouse in Frederick before going to Baltimore. But Malvo fell asleep on his job of keeping watch.

Meanwhile, refrigeration repairman Whitney Donahue, who had pulled into the rest area and recognized Muhammad's car from a police alert, called 911. The next thing he knew, Malvo said, he was face down on the ground, surrounded by officers.

Yesterday, more than three years after the arrest and more than two years after Malvo and Muhammad were tried and convicted in sniper shootings in Virginia, Malvo publicly gave his insider account of the killings for the first time.

Muhammad told him that their reign of terror would lead the government to accede to their $10 million extortion demand, Malvo testified. He said Muhammad's plan was to use the money to create a community in Canada to train 140 children as terrorists to carry out shooting rampages across the country and destroy the economy by killing 10 people a day.

Self-identified as the junior member of the sniper duo, Malvo gave an account that is a polar opposite of Muhammad's claim that both men are innocent of the six murder charges for which he is on trial. Malvo has agreed to plead guilty and accept six life sentences without parole in those killings.

"I think he's a coward," Malvo said of the man he once called "father." Then he turned and calmly spoke directly to Muhammad: "You took me into your house and made me a monster. You fed me, you clothed me, and you made me your child."

When Deputy State's Attorney Katherine Winfree asked the young Jamaican what his motive was for testifying, he replied, "I'm here just to tell the story, to tell the truth, to face Muhammad and for whatever it's worth, if anything," he paused and sighed deeply, "for the victims."

"I'm not proud of myself. I'm just trying to make amends if possible," Malvo said.

Malvo's chilling yet gripping story is the most dramatic testimony so far in the 12 days of the trial, as he outlined subplots that never came to fruition in Muhammad's grand scheme -revealing a far more expansive plot than previously had been made public.

"It was more terrifying than I expected. We had a reason to be scared," Mary Branch, a regular rider on the bus driven by the snipers' final victim, said during a courtroom break.

Muhammad is on death row for one Virginia sniper killing, and Malvo is serving multiple life sentences in Virginia for three shootings, two of them fatal.

Malvo spoke hesitantly at first but grew more animated as the day went on, using his hands as he describe things, sighing and furrowing his brow.

Malvo's testimony revealed that the 13 sniper shootings, 10 of them fatal, that terrorized the Washington region for three weeks in October 2002, were supposed to have been six shootings a day for 30 days.

Malvo testified that he backed down from Muhammad's plan to kill a pregnant woman in a shooting from a Baltimore cemetery after cutting a hole in a fence.

Aiming toward a fast food restaurant, he saw four pregnant women, Malvo said, but "just couldn't take the shot."

He said there was a helicopter overhead in an unrelated matter and that he didn't like the idea.

Malvo admitted that he stole a map book from a Baltimore public library, identified by earlier witnesses as the Reisterstown Road branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library - to find three schools whose buses the pair would follow.

He said they would learn where the buses were parked and Muhammad would plant explosives on the "soft spot" under each bus to kill children later while they were en route to school.

Malvo also said Muhammad had books on how to make explosive devices and had a plan to acquire explosives, including C4 plastic explosive. But Malvo said the Persian Gulf War veteran did not share the details with him.

The bombs that were to go off at the police funeral were to contain nails and ball bearings to maximize the damage.

Speaking in a low, breathy voice for five hours of direct testimony for the prosecution, Malvo laid the ever-changing plans to Muhammad, who he said initially told him that they were going to Maryland so that Muhammad could regain the three children he had lost to his ex-wife in a custody fight.

But in July 2002, Malvo testified, Muhammad changed it to a mission of terror, though the teenager suggested that they could just go to Clinton and whisk the children away from Mildred Muhammad.

"There was no reason, and when I asked, he would give me a look like, 'Shut up,'" Malvo said.

Malvo, who said Muhammad had been instructing him in Washington state for months at firing ranges by day and in anti-Americanism over their single daily meal, said he was devoted to Muhammad. The man had fed him, clothed him and brought him illegally from Antigua to the United States.

Malvo said that at Muhammad's behest, he knocked on Mildred Muhammad's door, so that Muhammad knew he had the right house.

From there, they went to New Jersey to buy a dark blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice, which Muhammad modified into a sniper's lair with a gun port in the trunk and hatch to hide a shooter and weapon. They tested the plan with a robbery and shooting in Montgomery, Ala., before returning to Maryland, Malvo said.

Deputy State's Attorney Katherine Winfree led Malvo through a short version of his life in the Caribbean, where he was starved for parental attention and met Muhammad at the age of 15, through his arrest in Muhammad's car at the age of 17.

Malvo said Muhammad fired the Bushmaster rifle in 11 of the 14 shootings that he discussed. Malvo said he spotted for Muhammad, who fired from the homemade gun port in the trunk of the Caprice.

Relatives of several victims wept as Malvo matter-of-factly testified that he told Muhammad the shootings were a go and that Muhammad took the shots that felled their loved ones.

The wails of the widow of Premkumar Walekar, a cabdriver who was gunned down at an Aspen Hill gas station on Oct. 3, 2002, resounded in the courtroom as she was led out by relatives. Malvo admitted being the trigger man in three shootings, including one fatal shooting in Montgomery County.

That testimony was at odds with his statement to police when he was arrested, in which he took credit for pulling the trigger in all of the shootings. Muhammad, acting as his own lawyer, pointed that out later in cross-examination.

Malvo's psychologists testified at his 2003 trial that he told them he had killed two people, the niece of a woman who testified against Muhammad in his divorce and the final sniper victim.

Muhammad shot victims from inside the trunk of the car and directed Malvo to do all of the shootings outside of the car, Malvo testified. He said he dug shallow holes in the wooded areas and covered himself with branches as he waited for hours to victims to approach.

He shot 13-year-old Iran Brown in the abdomen on Oct. 7, 2002, as the teen headed into Tasker Middle School in Bowie; and Jeffrey Hopper in the abdomen on Oct. 19, 2002, outside the Ponderosa restaurant in Ashland, Va., he said. They survived and testified here in recent weeks.

Malvo said he spent the night before he shot Iran Brown in the woods outside the middle school. Asked by Winfree what he was thinking about at the time, Malvo said, "How I was trained, you control yourself and think of nothing but the mission."

Asked what the mission was, Malvo explained that he was supposed to wait until several students stepped off the school bus, then open fire and shoot at least five of them.

Because no bus arrived, Muhammad directed Malvo by walkie-talkie to shoot the young man in front of him, Iran Brown, Malvo said.

"I didn't think about the victims as individuals," Malvo said. "My thoughts were only about Mr. Muhammad."

Malvo said he killed Ride On bus driver Conrad E. Johnson, the final sniper victim, early on Oct. 22, 2002, after burrowing into the dirt and covering himself with branches to spend the night. He then tacked up a warning note to police. In the morning, he saw Johnson and a Ride-On trainee preparing to begin the bus route.

"He turned around to face [the trainee], and I took the shot," Malvo said.

The power that Malvo says Muhammad once held over him and the bond they shared was evident as Muhammad cross-examined the young man.

"Mr. Malvo, the state has informed me that - not to call you 'son' or 'Lee.' Is that correct?" Muhammad asked.

"Yes," Malvo whispered.

Muhammad then asked Malvo how, if he was reliable, as Malvo had said earlier, he could be lying to the jury.

"I said your word was bond," Malvo said. " I never said you were telling the truth."

Muhammad then tried to discredit the young man by pointing out that he had lied to officers in Baltimore and Virginia.

"Seven hours of lying, is that correct?" Muhammad asked.

Malvo admitted that he had lied under oath in Virginia to protect Muhammad.

Muhammad spent the majority of yesterday's 50-minutes of cross-examination asking Malvo details about where victims stood when they were shot, where the Caprice was parked at murder scenes and what items they brought to YMCAs they visited.

Malvo will take the stand again today as Muhammad continues his cross-examination.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com julie scharper@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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