Malvo: `I am truly sorry'

Sniper gets 6 life terms in Montgomery Co. deaths

November 09, 2006|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun reporter

ROCKVILLE -- A tearful Lee Boyd Malvo told a Montgomery County courtroom yesterday that he was ashamed of his role in the sniper rampage that terrorized the Washington area in 2002 and claimed six lives in the suburban county, and that he'll never be able to forgive himself.

"I am truly sorry, grieved and ashamed of what I have done to the families and friends" of the six victims, said Malvo, sniffling as he read the names.

Circuit Judge James L. Ryan then sentenced Malvo, now 21, to six consecutive life terms in prison, one for each person that he and John Allen Muhammad were convicted of killing in Montgomery County.

The sentences, with no possibility of parole, follow identical sentences for sniper slayings in Virginia, where Malvo is to return. This makes it highly unlikely that the Jamaica native will serve time in a Maryland prison.

The three-week shooting rampage terrified people from Baltimore to Richmond, Va., in the fall of 2002 and claimed 10 lives.

The judge reminded Malvo that despite his remorse, trial testimony against his former mentor and his help to police in closing shooting cases around the country, "the people and laws" of Maryland do not forgive him.

"You could have been somebody different. You could have been better. What you are is a convicted murderer," Ryan said.

William Brennan, one of Malvo's lawyers, said his client has helped police close a fatal shooting case in Arizona and that he was contacted yesterday by officials in another jurisdiction - he declined to say where - who are seeking to solve a homicide there.

Beyond the Washington-area shootings, Malvo and Muhammad, 45, are suspected or charged in shootings in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Washington state, and have been linked to unsolved homicides elsewhere. Malvo reportedly hopes that a large-scale resolution will get him transferred from a Virginia prison to a federal facility.

Malvo pleaded guilty last month to the fatal shootings in Montgomery County as part of an arrangement in which he testified against Muhammad. The acolyte's chilling courtroom account in May of the killings was so riveting that he eclipsed the drama of Muhammad, a Gulf War veteran who had been acting as his own trial attorney.

Muhammad, who is on death row in Virginia for a sniper slaying there, and Malvo trawled the region for victims in Muhammad's beat-up Chevrolet Caprice, a dark blue car with a gun port cut into its trunk to hide a rifle-wielding killer. Fatally shot in Montgomery County were James D. Martin, 55; James L. "Sonny" Buchanan Jr., 39; Premkumar A. Walekar, 54; Sarah Ramos, 34; Lori Lewis-Rivera, 25; and Conrad E. Johnson, 35.

His voice cracking, Malvo said that he was especially haunted by the shooting of Johnson, the bus driver who became the sniper duo's final victim in the dawn of Oct. 22, 2002, two days before their capture at a Frederick County rest stop. Johnson's older son is now 18, a year older than Malvo was at the time of the shooting.

"I thought of his sons, who just for once would like to play basketball with their father. Just one more time, to see his face and hear his voice," Malvo said. "I also think of the pain and loss I inflicted on Iran Brown," he said, a reference to the 16-year-old boy wounded as he was about to enter a Bowie middle school early one October morning.

In remarks that brought tears to onlookers in the courtroom, Johnson's mother, one of two relatives of the slain victims to address the judge, said she forgives Malvo, who she said has "destroyed" his own life.

"For the past four years, I have hated you. But I have prayed to God about this situation. Why should I go on hating you when you already hurt yourself?" Sonia Wills said as Malvo looked at her.

She said Malvo "fell prey to the devil's advocate" and killed a wonderful man.

"Right now, I, Conrad's mother, forgive you for that. I have to, my dear. I can't go on hating you. I cannot go on hating you. That won't bring Conrad back," she said.

But Vickie Snider, whose brother "Sonny" Buchanan was fatally shot in the back as he mowed grass outside a car dealership, was less forgiving. "I don't think I ever - it's really for his God to forgive him," she said after the hearing.

"If he is so intelligent, why didn't he figure this out - that it's not right to kill people?" Snider said, a reference to remarks, including by defense lawyer Timothy Sullivan, that Malvo is bright. Snider said she will be satisfied knowing Malvo will spend his life in prison.

Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler spoke only after the hearing. He said that bringing Muhammad and Malvo to Maryland served several purposes: providing an insurance policy in case Muhammad's Virginia's conviction was overturned; determining the "hows and the whys" of the sniper siege; and providing a conclusion for the victims' families and the community.

"Why wouldn't you prosecute the person who comes into your county and kills six people?" asked Gansler, the state attorney general-elect.

Malvo's lawyers say he is no longer the youth Muhammad turned from abandoned adolescent into a monster to carry out a scheme of terrorism and extortion.

Carmeta Albarus, the social worker who has been working with Malvo since shortly after his arrest, sat in the courtroom yesterday.

As she left the building, she noted that he was a child adrift who had been brainwashed by Muhammad.

"He wants to be a pin in the conscience of society for how we should treat our children," she said. "We should love them and be with them, no matter what."

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