Horan lays out case against Malvo

Sitting silently and sometimes resting his head on the table as if bored, teen sniper suspect John Lee Malvo listened Tuesday to evidence introduced against him by Fairfax County prosecutors in their first step to secure a conviction and death penalty in his capital murder case.

The preliminary hearing will allow a Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge to decide whether there is enough evidence for a case to go forward to a grand jury for possible indictment.

A number of shootings have three common denominators: all victims were shot in ambush, all were killed by a rifle and all were killed by the same rifle, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said.

The intention of the killing spree was to intimidate the government into paying a $10 million ransom, Horan said. Police officials discovered the ransom note, which was tacked to a tree in a clear plastic bag with a cartoon character drawn on it, outside the Ponderosa Steakhouse in Ashland on Oct. 19, Horan added.

In calling 10 witnesses and introducing evidence never before seen publicly, Horan tried to establish that Malvo was the primary shooter in the October shootings that terrorized people in the mid-Atlantic region for nearly three weeks.

Malvo, 17, is charged in the Oct. 14 slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin in the parking garage of a Home Depot in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County. The Franklin case is connected to the Oct. 19 shooting in Ashland and the fatal Oct. 22 shooting of Montgomery County bus driver Conrad Johnson, Horan said. Malvo and the other three shootings also have been connected with the Oct. 9 slaying of Dean Harold Meyers at a Sudley Road Sunoco near Manassas, Horan said.

Franklin was not working the sniper case. Her husband William testified that he heard something that sounded like a bang while he was trying to get a shelf into his 1991 Mercury after he and Franklin shopped for two hours. He looked toward his wife and saw her lying with a gunshot wound to the head. He then went to her side, put one hand on her leg and one on her hip.

Officer Jeff Miller, a Fairfax County Police forensic investigator said the .223 caliber bullet entered the left side of Franklin’s head between her hairline and temple. In fragmented pieces, it exited above her eye, causing severe brain and tissue injuries. Prosecutors said the rifle connected to those fragments only has Malvo’s fingerprints on it.

Near the plastic bag found in Ashland was a Cinnaraisins box with Malvo’s prints on it, Horan said. An ADC map of Baltimore city and county was found near the scene of the Manassas shooting. According to prosecutors, fingerprints from that map were matched to both Malvo and Muhammad.

Lead bullet fragments and copper jackets, which are the back tip of a bullet, were found at the scene of many of the shootings and turned over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, according to many witnesses — one of whom was a crime scene investigator from the Prince William County Police Department.

Malvo and his psuedo-caretaker John Allen Muhammad are accused in 18 shootings — of which 13 were fatal — in a total of five states and Washington, D.C. Muhammad is being tried for Meyers’ murder in Prince William County.

Defense attorneys asked each witness who was at a shooting scene whether they saw Malvo, a white van or box truck or the blue Chevrolet Caprice that Malvo and Muhammad were arrested in. The Caprice had a cup-sized hole bored out in the back, allowing shooters to fire from the trunk, law enforcement officials have said.

Malvo, who turns 18 in February, is due back in court today for the rest of his hearing.

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