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Teen sniper suspect may be in U.S. illegally

By Jeordan Legon

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• Born in Jamaica

• No U.S. visa 

• Suspect in Alabama shooting

• Lived in homeless shelter

• In high school last year

(CNN) -- Lee Boyd Malvo, a 17-year-old whose fingerprint led authorities to the sniper suspects, is described by one person as unremarkable and by another as "caring, and very respectful."

Little is known about Malvo, who was arrested along with John Allen Muhammad at a Maryland rest area early Thursday morning. Classmates at a Bellingham, Washington, high school, where he enrolled last year, said Malvo didn't stand out.

"The information that I have was that he was quiet and that he spent a lot of time in the library studying, and was not openly gregarious with the other students," Bellingham Police Chief Randy Carroll told reporters.

But the police investigation couldn't track Malvo's school records.

"We were unable to identify where he had come from and we were unable to verify any transcripts or any prior education," Carroll said. "He stayed in school briefly and then we lost track of him."

Carroll said the student apparently posed no problems in school.

Malvo, who was born in Jamaica, was allegedly in the country illegally and had a deportation hearing scheduled for November 20, federal law enforcement sources told CNN. (Interview with father)

Jamaican authorities said he moved to the United States at age 4, but the State Department said it had no record of issuing a visa to Malvo.

The immigration status of Malvo and his mother, Una James, came into question when authorities were called to the house they shared with Muhammad in December 2001 during an unspecified dispute. Malvo and his mother were taken into custody and fingerprinted before being released on bond.

Those were the fingerprints used to identify him and link him to a shooting in Montgomery, Alabama, and ultimately to be named as a sniper shooting suspect.

Malvo, who was arrested on a material witness warrant in the sniper case, appeared Thursday afternoon behind closed doors before a federal district judge in Baltimore.

He initially was described by sniper task force sources as Muhammad's stepson, but law enforcement sources later said the two are not related.

"While they were here, Mr. Muhammad was posing as [Malvo's] father," Carroll said.

At some point, CNN has learned, Malvo also enrolled successfully in high school in Fort Myers, Florida.

But earlier this year he and Muhammad were back in Washington state living at the Lighthouse Mission, a homeless shelter in Bellingham.

Bellingham Mayor Mark Amundsen told reporters Thursday that Muhammad and Malvo had minor run-ins with police when they were in town, but none of those prompted charges.

Fingerprint used to trace suspect

The sniper himself called the task force hotline last Thursday, boasting about killing before and telling them to take a look at an unsolved killing in Alabama, law enforcement sources told CNN.

Authorities said Thursday they matched Malvo's fingerprint with one lifted from the September 21 shooting at a liquor store in Montgomery that left one woman dead and another injured.

Detectives said they used the fingerprint to trace Malvo to Tacoma, Washington, and learned of the connection with Muhammad.

FBI agents, acting Wednesday under a grand jury subpoena, removed documents relating to the case from Bellingham High School, Carroll said. Detectives reportedly were searching for samples of Malvo's writing to see if they matched notes left by the D.C.-area sniper.

"Contact with Lee Malvo was made here in Bellingham in December 2001," Carroll said. "Mr. Malvo stated he'd been in Bellingham since October 2001 and that he'd come to finish school at Bellingham.

"Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo were known to be together at that time," Carroll said.

Described as 'caring, very respectful'

Those who reportedly know Malvo said he was polite.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Sheila Tezando, Muhammad's sister-in-law, said she last saw Muhammad and Malvo three months ago at her home when they were in town for a visit.

She said Malvo, whom she called Lee, was very polite during the visit. It was the first time she met the teen.

Malvo "was very caring, very respectful, everything was, 'Yes ma'am and no ma'am,'" she said.

Tezando said there was nothing in his demeanor that would lead her to believe that Malvo was capable of violence, but other relatives said that at times he appeared afraid of Muhammad.

Relatives said Muhammad had Malvo on a strict diet of honey and crackers and he appeared very thin.

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