Prosecutors offer evidence to try teen-ager as adult in sniper case

Victim's husband testifies at hearing

fingerprints link Malvo to shootings

January 15, 2003|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

FAIRFAX, VA. -Prosecutors offered the first details yesterday of their capital murder case against sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo, using forensic evidence and a widower's heartrending testimony to argue that the teen-ager should be tried as an adult - and possibly face the death penalty.

Malvo showed no emotion in the first day of his preliminary hearing in Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court as the husband of FBI analyst Linda Franklin fought tears while softly recounting his wife's death. Malvo, 17, is charged with fatally shooting Franklin on Oct. 14. It is one of 18 shootings - 13 of them fatal - of which he and John Allen Muhammad, 42, are accused.

William Franklin described kneeling at his wife's side as she lay in the parking lot of the Home Depot store in the Seven Corners section of the county, shot through the head. The couple had just switched places while loading their purchases into their car, with Linda Franklin holding a cart at the rear of the car while her husband maneuvered a long shelf through a car door about 9:15 p.m.

"I heard a noise - I felt something hit me on the side of my face," said William Franklin, adding that he learned later that it was spatters of her blood. He turned, he said, and "I saw my wife lying there. She had a gunshot wound to her head. ... There was nothing I could do. I went to her side."

He called 911 from his cell phone. While he waited, he put one hand on her leg and one hand on her hip.

Meanwhile, other shoppers in the parking lot scattered in fear.

Fairfax County police officer Jeffrey Miller testified that the bullet entered the left side of Franklin's head and exited above her right eye, causing severe brain and skull damage.

Under cross-examination, Franklin said he did not see a blue Chevrolet Caprice, the type of car that Malvo and Muhammad were sleeping in when they were arrested Oct. 24 at an Interstate 70 rest stop in Frederick County, Md.

In opening remarks in the first official and detailed presentation of evidence against the suspects, Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. promised to tie Malvo to the Oct. 10 killing of Dean H. Meyers in Prince William County; Franklin's death; the Oct. 19 wounding of a man in Ashland, Va.; and the Oct. 22 killing of bus driver Conrad Johnson in the Aspen Hill section of Montgomery County.

Horan told Judge Charles J. Maxfield that all four shootings were done by ambush using the same rifle, and that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms identified Malvo's fingerprints on the Bushmaster rifle. Horan also said he would tie Malvo to two threatening notes - those found close to the Ashland and Aspen Hill shootings - and to two telephone calls to police.

"All of this was an attempt to intimidate the government to pay in excess of $10 million for these defendants, and this defendant in particular, to stop the shooting," Horan said.

Both are elements that, if convicted, would make Malvo eligible to be put to death. Under Virginia law, convicts can receive the death penalty if they have killed more than once in three years. But that also requires proving that Malvo pulled the trigger.

Prosecutors contend that they can avoid that requirement because under an anti-terrorism statute passed by Virginia lawmakers after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, prosecutors need show only that Malvo intimidated the public and participated in a slaying. The new law is untested, and if Malvo is convicted under it, his attorneys probably would challenge it in appeals courts.

For three weeks last fall, sniper shootings around the Washington area left scared people hiding in their homes and running zigzags through parking lots. Public events were canceled.

Dressed in a dark-green jumpsuit with "Fairfax County Jail" stamped on the back, Malvo at times appeared to listen and watch attentively to witnesses. But he spent part of the afternoon resting his head on his arms on the defense table, not looking at witnesses.

In a 911 recording of a call to Rockville City Police Department, a caller, whom Horan said was Malvo, could be heard saying, "Call me God," a theme repeated in other notes and calls. "Do not release this to the press. We have called you two times before. We have gotten no response," the caller said.

Dispatcher Amy Lefkoff testified that she referred the caller to the Montgomery County police hot line, following investigators' procedure.

Police testified that they found Malvo's fingerprints on a candy wrapper in Ashland, a short distance from where they discovered a resealable plastic bag with a pink note inside it. Horan said that the note read "Your children are not safe anywhere at any time" and that the food bag also bore Malvo's fingerprints.

Prince William County Police Officer Ralph Daigneau testified that investigators found a Baltimore map with Malvo's and Muhammad's fingerprints on it near the Manassas, Va., gas station where Meyers was killed.

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