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Text of interview with Malvo's mother

Here is the second portion of a pre-taped interview with Una James, the mother of 18-year-old sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo, as it was broadcast Sunday on the Jamaican television station TVJ. The interview was conducted June 18, and the first half aired June 22 on the Jamaican station.

Host: Una, it's good to have you back to this second part. The last time we had reached to Antigua. So you brought Malvo now to Antigua after problems?

James: How did Antigua get into the picture? In St. Maarten I didn't have any paperwork. I was illegal and I had to come home, save some money, do what I have to do and leave again. Anyway, in 1998 I came home after being deported.

Host: You were deported from St. Maarten?

James: Yes. I came home, the fact is I had a little money. Well, I got notice of the deportation, and when I got home and saw the landlord he didn't say anything to me so I said "why aren't you speaking to me" and he said "give me my place, Ms. James." So I never said anything. I just went to the house and asked my mother what happened.

She didn't explain anything so after I calmed down, I went back to him and asked what the problem was and he said, "Well, it is not working out between me and your mother so I want my place."

Anyway, I said "Lord, problem after problem. What do I do now?" So I went ... (unintelligible). I had a piece of land that I had bought. And my first year in putting my son through high school, I got a little money and bought a piece of land.

But I was thinking that as a single parent, I didn't want to take up the problems of building a house, so I was thinking about a housing trust. Anyway, I couldn't find a place to rent so I said, 'OK since I have the land, let me go and put something together and move into it.' Because I had gotten papers to go to court and all of that to move.

So I decided that with the little money I had, I'd take a loan, and try ...(unintelligible).

The nitty gritty is that I didn't have enough money to go back again, and have enough to travel with him and put him in school with books and school fees and boarding money and the whole thing. So I called up the father and said, "Let me ask you something Mr. Malvo. Since Malvo (her son) ... and me left ... I haven't asked you for anything, but there comes a time in my life, I need your help. I'm slow with funds. I'm asking you to take care of the book list and the rental fee, and I'll take care of the school fee or one of them, I'm begging you."

He didn't help me at all. He said, "What do you want me to do, go steal? I can't do that. I don't have it and I won't steal." So I handed the telephone to my son and said, "talk to your father," because I figured it might have melted him down.

Well he spoke to the youth in the same way, "I don't have it and I am not going to steal." So we both hung up and I said, "what do I do now?" So I had to figure out how he was going to go back into school and I went in and spoke to the principal and they worked something out with the school fee.

I got the book list and then he went back to school. One thing with me, I never waited until the appointed time to get the uniform for him, I always had clothes that I had bought and put away. And I came back and cut it and sewed it, all the time I sewed things for him.

Anyway, I had called up the father and he didn't respond. So I said, "no, this isn't fair to me," so I decided to take him to family court. I have the family court papers here also. When I went to the family court downtown, he sat down and he told a lot of what was not true and they believed him.

He didn't even show up on the date for the family court. So I went to Half Way Tree and took out a paper for him. And when I took out the paper, I went to Hunt's Bay, since he had threatened me so much time and I had to report him here there and everywhere.

So I said I'm not going to face him since he had pushed a knife in my side already so I decided that I won't face him because he was deadly. So what I did I went to the police. I said, "I need the company of the police to issue this paper to this man."

Anyway, I sat there until in the evening at patrol time and then they dropped me up there. So when I sat down and looked at it, I said "no, I had received threats from a man whose child I had and it can happen again."

So what I did was I moved again and took my son where I was. So that forced me to take him where I was (in Antigua). Because I figured that the entire rejection even from his father, the family figure of my mother's side of the family, there was no love. So let me keep him and grow him up the best I can and at least he can grow to love me and I can grow to love him and at least he is growing into an adolescent and he will soon pass on and leave me so let me watch the little last of him.

So I decided that when I went to Antigua for the summer, I would take him with me.

Host: So he started to go to school?

James: Yes, and I took him, he went to the Seventh Day Adventist school in Antigua.

Host: And at that time he was still going to the Adventist Church?

James: Beautiful.

Host: But you were doing so much bandoloo (term for illegal activities and those accused of committing them) as a Seventh Day Adventist?

James: Yes, well I was doing so much as a bandoloo as a Seventh Day Adventist.

Host: You married a bandoloo abroad. You went there on bandoloo?

James: Well, you don't do everything in life saying that it's right. Even when the Seventh Day Adventist got the quarter acre of land from my grandmother and my mother didn't live anywhere. How did they take it and put the money into the religion? If the religion had the faith and had the love, they would have said no.

Host: So the Adventist never treated you well?

James: Sister Estelle, didn't live anywhere so they should give the piece of land to her and not let her move up and down like a rolling stone. So if I didn't try to find somewhere to put my mother...

Host: So you feel betrayed by the church also?

James: If I didn't go and find somewhere to put my mother, where would my mother be now? In the midst of everything I gave her shelter and I gave her food.

Host: So even the church never helped you?

James: Thank you. When I was in problems in Washington and I called the pastor in Florida and said to him "I am in danger, what do I do?" He said, "Find the nearest Seventh Day Adventist church." I was reluctant, because I knew I was born in that church and they didn't help.

When I called after I had done all the running around and pushing around and rejection I had to get mad and one evening I went there and said, "the Bible says you go to your own and your own receive you not." I said can you imagine I was born in one, and I was christened in one and I went to school in one and see I've come here and it's no help. Well when I went to talk to the man he said, "What do you want now? Why did you come here?"

Host: So your family rejected you? You didn't feel the love for your religion? So out of all of this you had a sense of displacement?

James: Thank you.

Host: So then now you heard about this man John Muhammad who can help people to go abroad. He helped a lot of Jamaicans to leave Antigua and go to the United States.

James: Yes, that I knew.

Host: But you were not along with him? He was not a lover of yours?

James: No. We never dated. We are not friends. Strictly business. I pay you to take me there. I pay you to take my son there and that's it.

Host: So you got through to go to America, you had to leave your son?

James: I left him behind with a friend.

Host: You left him behind with a friend, but the plan was ...

James: That was for him to come three months after me.

Host: So John was supposed to work up some fake papers for him now to bring him to the U.S.?

James: Yes, three months after me.

Host: How did they become close? How did your son become close with John Muhammad?

Host: Well, when I left, the first thing I realized was that things weren't right. When I left him, I called there, but they said he wasn't there. I was told he was sick and in the town, which is Philipsburg (St. Maarten). I asked, "How come he is sick for so long?" Every time I call he is not at home. So I said, let me call the school because I didn't have a phone number for him with Muhammad.

Host: So he was with Muhammad.

James: Yes.

Host: So we're talking about Antigua. So Malvo became close to John Muhammad who is a Muslim, and then you said that when you saw Malvo later he started to talk about Allah. So Malvo himself started to believe in Islam?

James: What I know, the principal, since she knew I would call him at school, she said to the lady in the office, "Whenever Ms. James calls to allow me to speak to her." I needed to talk to her and when I spoke to her, she said, "Do you know your son is a Muslim? Come and get him or else he's lost. You're gonna lose him." And that was one of my greatest fears.

This was where the fear begins, and I called more regularly and tried to tell him that since I went there illegally, it wasn't so easy to come back and get him. So I said "Go back where I sent you." And I even mentioned to him the first commandment given to man: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord for that is right." I said there is no compromise to it and the Bible tells you that obedience is better than sacrifice.

Host: He was looking for a father figure? He so longed for a father?

James: He was looking for a father figure, yes.

Host: And John Muhammad was that father figure?

James: But I was trying to tell him then that there is no shortcut in life, and what you did not get, you can't force it and get it and you can't make it. Because I never got loved by a mother. I never got loved by a father, but the little that I have, as I told his teacher back then, I am living my life because of Malvo. Because what I didn't get, I make sure that I do what I can so that he will get it and have a happy life, the best I can.

So I was telling him that God blessed you with one thing, he gave that to you, and I said the road is rocky and it's tough. When I went to the permit office in Antigua and I met the Jamaican lady, the day when I met and heard about Muhammad, I heard about a man that could get you to the United States, the contact was good. So I went home and said to my son, "I don't want to leave you again because you're just up and down. You were supposed to graduate from age 15 and the up and down thing is not working." So I said, "It is better that I cool out and get you to graduate from school and then you can move on." Because I knew that that was college time.

He said to me, "Mommy, life is hard for you and right here is rough. You have gotten the opportunity, so move on." So just as I had left him at Barbican (their neighborhood in Kingston) the morning when I was leaving for Antigua, I woke him up, he gave me a hug and said, "Mommy, I'm not crying because you're going to look for your life, so I'm not going to cry. I just wish you luck and prosperity."

And every time that I went there and it got hard and I had to run from the immigration and hide, those were the words that gave me the strength that yes, I can press on because the comfort was there from my son, so we were pretty close.

He said "Mommy, take the opportunity. We need the help because right here is hard for you. You always wanted to go back to school, so you don't have much choice."

Host: So he was thinking of you also? Thinking of the family? But when he came home, he started talking about Allah and about Muslims?

James: When he came to me in the United States, when Muhammad took him there, Muhammad didn't want to give him to me. He said it to me when he took him.

Host: So he started to talk about Islam and Muslims and religion?

James: Yes, so he bowed down and doubled up and (was) talking about Allah and no God and I said, "No man, it is that man that has taken care of us from back then, so how are you going to say there is no God?"

Host: There is no God but Allah. That's what he said?

James: Allah is God. That's what he said. So the controversy was between him and me. So what he started to do now, I said you can't bless Allah over the food that I have worked for. You have to bless it through the almighty God because that's the one I know.

Host: So when he wanted to grace the food, he wanted to talk about Allah?

James: He would do their way... (unintelligible) and do what he had to do. He used to do it in his bedroom.

Host: And he has now taken on the name Muhammad? So what did he think about America? Did he talk about America?

James: Well most of his life he has been there.

Host: He wasn't against American policies?

James: No. I wouldn't say he's against the policy but he was very much interested in the history of America.

Host: True? He studied up on the history of America?

James: Yes, he would do that. He had the book of the history of America and he would read it all in no time, get another one and start it, go on the Internet. He knew a lot.

Host: So he was interested in political affairs? He read about politics?

James: Yes. But the thing I knew was that he always wanted to be an astronaut. Either a pilot or an astronaut, but he mostly wanted to be an astronaut.

Host: I see, he had big plans. So what about John Muhammad? You knew him well also? He was a man who hated America.

James: Well, he always spoke against it, the little time that I knew him. I knew he was harsh against that country. I don't know why, and I never questioned it. All I said to my son was that "he brought us here and we have reached here safely. Take what you get and let the man go on. Why are you going to mix up with him? You came here to drink milk not to count cow." (Jamaican phrase meaning be yourself, do your best and don't mingle with the bad crowd.)

Host: If he loved you that much Una, why did he run away and leave you and go to Muhammad?

James: Well, everyday I ask myself that question. Up to now I have been asking myself that question. In the letter he said that he loved me, but I question what the word love means.

Host: But he wrote about how he loved you?

James: Yes, and I said if you love me it is just like how God said that he loves us, and we are not serving him the right and proper way. Because loving God is doing the right thing and doing his work is love.

Host: Do you feel guilty a lot? Do you blame yourself?

James: Well, I blame myself and the area which I blame myself with, I said I was going to, seeing that I can always look at it now. You'd like to go back and change things, but you can't. You just have to live with it. I was saying to a friend last night, "Imagine, I have to live with this until the day I die." I ask myself how I am going to handle it. What do I do? What did I do wrong? What are all these unanswered questions? Well, fear yes

Host: And this fear is for his execution?

James: Yes.

Host: You fear capital punishment?

James: Right.

Host: And you can't even go back to the U.S. to be there with him? You're making attempts?

James: I would try.

Host: You've been in touch with the Jamaican government?

James: Yes, I went to them when I came here and the attorney general here wrote a letter to the attorney general in the United States. I didn't get back any response from him so I don't know if it made it or not.

Host: You've made plan to see the prime minister here?

James: Not yet.

Host: But you want to see Mr. Patterson?

James: Yes, I would really like to talk to him because there are lot of things... Even when I was there, I would ask the social workers for help. I was crying everyday, depressed. I said my son is in trouble and I need help. They told me to leave the boy alone. That I was the one making him run away because I was pressuring him. 'Why are you running him off?' That's what a social worker told me.

Host: And you were crying out for help?

James: I was crying to them that my son was in danger but they didn't listen. They gave me two doses of tablets for depression, and when I went back I didn't take it because they are telling me that I need to see a psychiatrist, and I said "I'm not crazy. Nothing is wrong with me. I only know I'm depressed because I know that my son is in danger and in problems and I want help."

Host: Even social, immigration authorities, did not respond?

James: No, because when they reach the age, they have the right to be on their own if they want to, that is what they told me.

Host: Una James telling her story here on Profile. She has more.

Host: When did you first heard that your son was involved in this big case? I mean this is the biggest story in the American media since ...

James: I never wanted to see another day. I just didn't want to wake and see another day. That was my pain. How am I going to handle this one? How am I going to live through this? Can I survive it?

Host: During the time did you hear from your son?

James: No.

Host: You didn't hear from him. You didn't know where he was?

James: No. I was just hoping and praying. I was coming from work, and then I went to the gym and was heading home. I picked up the phone and the people on the phone said "don't move." They said "I'm sorry Ms. James, you're in trouble," and I said "With what again?"

His life was connected to me. I got the shock of my life and I said "I'm lost, I'm gone." She said don't move, and we need to get you before the FBI. And that was what happened.

Host: And you were in a daze?

James: Yes. So when night comes now I don't want to see it even now. I don't have much appetite. There's no love here. People talk and they have their remarks to pass on more than anything else.

Well in '98 I left here and then I came back penniless. But the fact of the matter is that in the Bible, God calls fools but he doesn't keep them and he won't allow him to go without food or to beg for bread.

The power comes from within. He made my son, He made everybody. Joseph had to go to prison to rule down at Egypt. But if you go back to the biblical term you will see it.

Host: Do you still love him?

James: Yes, he's still my son and I love him. I'm sorry for all the innocent people who died.

Host: But he was laughing. It showed where he was laughing when asked about the shooting, where he shot Franklin and he made fun of shooting?

James: Well, I don't know because even then you're questioning him without a lawyer so I don't have anything to back that up. Because right is right and wrong is wrong. But the fact of the matter is, if it had been a white man's son, I know they would have gone in there and taken him. I spoke to the social workers and they took no action and nobody would listen to me. That's what I wanted, help. Yes.

Host: And you feel if it was a white kid...

James: Yes, that's what it all boils down to for me. What about Muhammad? I went there, and I told them this man is a problem when it comes to my youth, and you're blaming my son alone. Where am I getting right? I saw the ballistic test for him. Where does my government come in? You can't prove he's guilty until finding him guilty. Where is the government to back him? He is a citizen.

If you go down to Iraq the other day, they are protecting their own. I remember I went to my mother and she didn't have it. I tried, there was no help. Where is all the offering going? The money going to heaven?

Does Jesus Christ have pockets up there? There was no help so I went out there, I have to take my blame. But did they provide a help, to say this is one child out of the poor, did they invest in their members? So it all boils down to love.

If Jesus didn't have love, he wouldn't have gone out there and taken 12 simple disciples. He went and took fishermen like me. So nobody is down there to help me. The religion, the society, has failed. And I was homeless there. This is why I said to my son, I said when you go out there, there is no way I'm going to be around you at all times.

You have to make decisions and make sure you're making the right decisions. And you're going to be faced with them, because even though I made wrong moves, I could have made worse. I could have gone and sold drugs, I could have done a lot of things, but I said we'll work hard no matter what the price. You say that I went there illegal, but at least I worked. If I got a dollar I can show you that I worked, from way back then chopping banana grass to go to school to gain the little knowledge that I have now.

Host: What's the future for Una James?

James: Well, the future for me, you know, Oprah is my role model, and if she made it, then I'm going to make it.

Host: You still have hopes?

James: Yes, I still have hopes.

Host: You're not giving up?

James: No, I'm not giving up. The gift of God is eternal life and he gave me life. So if Malvo's life is even gone, thanks for life.

Host: You're not giving up no matter what happens?

James: No.
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