On stand, Malvo calmly recounts mayhem plot

Lee Boyd Malvo walked into the packed courtroom yesterday in a dark suit and white shirt and barely looked at the man he once considered his father.

Called as a witness in the sniper trial of John Allen Muhammad, Malvo spoke softly, looked right at the prosecutor who questioned him, frequently gesticulated with his hands and raised his eyebrows. He was rarely at a loss for words and had no traces of an accent from his native Jamaica.

But overall, the 21-year-old betrayed little emotion as he described how he came under the influence of Muhammad and how the two of them plotted and carried out the 13 Washington-area sniper shootings, 10 of them fatal, including the six murders for which Muhammad is being tried here.

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

Malvo, who has agreed to plead guilty to the six sniper killings in Montgomery County, gave his testimony in a calm, polite and dispassionate way.

His hair neatly trimmed, he almost looked like a prep school student, one spectator said.

He didn't stumble on words or stutter as Muhammad, who is acting as his own lawyer, has often done.

Occasionally, Malvo would twist his lips - one of the few signs of discomfort in a long day of questioning.

This was a fuller-faced, more mature Malvo than the cartoon-doodling teenager who slumped in his chair, seemingly bored by the proceedings, at his 2003 murder trial in Chesapeake, Va.

Malvo is serving life sentences without parole in Virginia for three sniper shootings.

Yesterday he sat up straight in his chair and focused intently on whomever was asking him questions.

Courtroom observers had eagerly anticipated the confrontation between the two men, but even under questioning from Muhammad, Malvo maintained his unruffled demeanor.

Emotions in check
When Muhammad accidentally called him "son" and asked whether he had lied to prosecutors in Virginia (where Malvo initially claimed he pulled the trigger in all of the shootings), Malvo did not flinch. He did not raise his voice.

A couple of times, Malvo paused for a long time, and it seemed that he might show a crack of emotion, but then he would keep going in the same quiet but certain way. Though he described breaking down, crying and shaking, he did not act emotionally on the stand.

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

For most of the day, Malvo responded to questions from the prosecutor.

He spoke about his childhood in Jamaica. He said he was estranged from his mother and saw very little of his father. He did not have any adult confidantes, he said.

That changed when he met Muhammad in 2000 after spotting him in an electronics store with his children.

"I could tell there was a lot of discipline but a lot of passion," Malvo said. "There was a bond there that I hadn't seen before or experienced."

Love for Muhammad
Later, he said, Muhammad took him in and started calling him "son." He started learning about black nationalism and the Nation of Islam.

"Did you come to love Mr. Muhammad?" the prosecutor said.

"Yes," he answered.

Malvo went on to describe their move to the United States and Muhammad's desperate search for his children after their mother was awarded custody.

He used the same calm voice to describe their plan: "There was going to be six shots, six slayings a day for 30 days."

Then, he said, they were planning to implement "Phase 2," using explosives to blow up schools, school buses and hospitals.

Eventually, Malvo described the killings to the jury, never swaying from his clinical tone: "Once I told him he had a 'go,' the shot was taken."

He described seeing one victim slumped over after getting shot and another lying on the ground in a pool of blood.

During his testimony about killing Premkumar Walekar as he was pumping gas into his taxicab, the victim's wife began sobbing loudly and had to be led out of the room.

Malvo lowered his voice but kept talking.

He returned frequently to his complicated relationship with Muhammad.

"He's a man of his word," he said. "If he tells you he's going to do something, it's done."

Once, after a shooting in which "everything was perfect," Malvo said Muhammad told him, "You were calm. I created a [expletive] monster."

Courtroom filled
The day of testimony and the sight of Muhammad cross-examining his former acolyte brought dozens of spectators, who filled every bench in the courtroom.

"I was just rather chilled by his monotone. It didn't seem to have an effect on him," said Barbara McCarthy, an attorney from Rockville who stopped in to see the proceedings. "It was like a classroom recitation. ... What was chilling was the total lack of remorse."

Sylvia Wagner, another attorney who watched yesterday's testimony, said, "I was very upset to think that a human being would go on a killing rampage and describe it as if it was a normal schedule of events. As if he was looking for a place to eat. He's looking for victims. It's so outrageous. It almost makes you shudder about what humanity can do."

Correction: In the originally published version of this story, John Allen Muhammad was incorrectly identified as Lee Boyd Malvo during an exchange in which Muhammad referred to Malvo as "son". The Sun regrets the error.