Skip to main content

Malvo: Muhammad 'made me a monster'

Younger man cross-examined by former mentor in sniper trial

Lee Boyd Malvo testified Tuesday in the trial of his former mentor, John Allen Muhammed.


Lee Boyd Malvo
John Allen Muhammad

ROCKVILLE, Maryland (CNN) -- Lee Boyd Malvo told a Maryland jury Tuesday that John Allen Muhammad "made me a monster" who aided in the 2002 sniper killings that terrorized the Washington, D.C., area.

Testifying in Muhammad's murder trial, Malvo, 21, outlined the meticulous planning behind the killings, including how his former mentor turned an aging Chevrolet into a shooting platform.

He said Muhammad wanted to "terrorize" the nation's capital. He quoted Muhammad as saying, " 'The chickens come home to roost.' "

"I'm not proud of myself. I'm just trying to make amends," Malvo said as prosecutors wrapped up their direct questioning Tuesday afternoon.

Muhammad, 45, is representing himself in his murder trial in the Washington suburb of Montgomery County, Maryland, scene of six of the 10 killings and one of the three nonfatal attacks.

Muhammad began cross-examining his onetime companion Tuesday afternoon.

Malvo admitted killing a bus driver in Montgomery County; wounding a 13-year-old boy in neighboring Prince George's County; and acting as a lookout as Muhammad shot and killed seven other people during their rampage.

He said Muhammad was the triggerman in the first six killings.

Malvo has agreed to plead guilty to the murder charges he faced in Montgomery County and testify against Muhammad, who still refers to Malvo as his son.

Asked what he now thinks of his former mentor, he said, "I think he's a coward."

Muhammad and Malvo already have been convicted of a sniper murder each in Virginia. Muhammad received a death sentence in that state and Malvo a life prison term.

Under cross-examination, Malvo admitted he lied to police during seven hours of questioning after he and Muhammad were arrested October 24, 2002, at a highway rest stop west of Frederick, Maryland.

In earlier testimony, he said he "showboated" when he claimed to be the triggerman in all 13 shootings because he believed that as a juvenile he would not be put to death.

Played Russian roulette

Malvo recounted how Muhammad "took me under his wing" as a teenager in Tacoma, Washington, taught him about the Nation of Islam and trained him to shoot.

He said Muhammad, a onetime Army sergeant who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, "hates this country."

Muhammad's plan was to use the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice, whose trunk he had modified into a sniper's nest, as a platform to kill six people a day for a month.

A second phase would have involved even more killing, using bombs loaded with ball bearings, Malvo said.

After hearing the plan, Malvo said, he sat crying and alone in a bathroom, playing Russian roulette with a .22 revolver loaded with one bullet.

He pulled the trigger three times but said he couldn't go through with it when he realized the round was in the chamber.

Eventually, he said, Muhammad talked of enlisting 140 people as snipers in an attack he said would undercut the U.S. economy.

The youth said he didn't doubt Muhammad's goals: "He's a man of his word. If he tells you he is going to do something, it is done."

Mary Branch, a friend of victim Conrad Johnson, said she was surprised at how articulate Malvo was. But she said that while she believes Malvo was controlled by Muhammad, "I think he had a large part in the situation, also."

Johnson, 35, was a bus driver who was shot in the doorway of his commuter bus in Aspen Hill, Maryland. The killing on October 22, 2002, was the last of the Washington-area attacks.

Branch said Malvo's testimony showed how thoroughly planned the killings were. "It was more terrifying than what I expected," she said.

A relative of another victim, Premkumar Walekar, broke into tears and was led from the courtroom as Malvo described staking out the Maryland gas station where Walekar was shot to death October 3, 2002.

'Call me God'

Malvo said Muhammad decided which of them would fire from a hole cut into the Caprice's trunk -- a tactic he said was drawn from an Irish Republican Army training manual.

After a test run that involved shooting two women -- one fatally -- outside a liquor store in Alabama, Malvo testified, Muhammad announced that it was time "to begin the terror."

Malvo, who was 17 at the time, said the pair scouted Montgomery County for good sniper locations that lacked security cameras. Muhammad called it "the perfect area to terrorize," he said.

Malvo used a laser pointer on an aerial photo to show where Muhammad parked the death car at the scene of a killing at a grocery store in Wheaton, Maryland, on October 2, 2002.

Muhammad crawled from the back seat into the trunk and picked out a target while Malvo acted as a lookout, he said.

"Once I told him he had a go, the shot was taken," he said. "Mr. Muhammad took the shot from the trunk."

After the shooting, Malvo said, he went into the back seat, disassembled the .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle and put it in a black duffle bag as Muhammad drove away.

"The next day was supposed to get at least five shootings, maybe six," he said.

In fact, they killed five people the following day -- four of them in Maryland and one in Washington, he testified.

Malvo said he carried out the next attack, shooting a woman outside a crafts store in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the following day.

He and Muhammad disagreed over the location, and "the shot took a while" because of potential witnesses.

He said Muhammad correctly predicted the victim "was not going to die" but said "it was enough."

During more than four hours of direct examination, Malvo also described lying in wait overnight outside a middle school in Bowie, Maryland, and leaving a tarot card with the message "Call me God" for police in the woods near the school.

His plan was to kill "at least five" students, but he ended up shooting only one -- a 13-year-old boy who survived his injuries.

Target practice

The Jamaican-born Malvo began by describing how his parents separated when he was 3, and he saw his father only on holidays until his mother put a stop to the visits when he was 6.

He met Muhammad when he was 15 at a Tacoma shop where he played video games and eventually went to live in Muhammad's home.

Muhammad took care of him when he was sick, and put him on a one-meal-a-day diet of soy burgers and soup and a regimen of vitamins and exercise, he said.

Muhammad also taught him how to shoot rifles during a 12-hour trip to a gun range.

At the range, Muhammad showed him how to crawl up behind people without being noticed, he said. Later, he said, they would practice long-range sniper shooting using paper plates to represent victims' heads.

Muhammad, with his chin resting on his right hand, showed no emotion as Malvo testified.

CNN's Mike Ahlers contributed to this report.

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.

© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines