Malvo to be tried as adult in shooting

A Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge ruled Wednesday that Lee Boyd Malvo, known earlier as John Lee Malvo, can be tried as an adult in Fairfax County Circuit Court. The ruling came after an emotional closing statement from Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr.

“That rifle has [Malvo’s] fingerprints on it and no one else’s,” Horan told Judge Charles Maxwell, his voiced raised during his closing statement. “That rifle was used in four of the shootings we know of.”

Malvo is charged in Fairfax with killing Linda Franklin, a 47-year-old Arlington woman as she loaded bags into her 1991 Mercury with her husband in the parking lot of a Falls Church area Home Depot. He and his cohort John Allen Muhammad, 42, are suspected in 18 shootings — of which 13 were fatal in a total of five states and the District of Columbia.

Judge Maxwell’s ruling concluded a day-and-a-half long probable cause hearing to determine whether prosecutors had enough evidence for Malvo to be tried as an adult in Circuit Court. The case will go before a grand jury soon.

If indicted, Malvo will be tried under a new terrorism statute that allows death sentences for people who attempt to coerce the government or intimidate the public.

Maxwell told the court that although no witness saw Malvo at any crime scene, circumstantial evidence in the case is “quite strong.”

”They wanted to negotiate for money. They said, ‘If you want us to stop killing people give us the money,’ ” Horan said. “If that is not intended to intimidate government, I don’t know what is.”

Defense attorneys said that no evidence was brought forth that shows Malvo tried to intimidate anyone, labeling a recorded conversation between FBI agent Jackie Dalrymple and a man who identified himself as “God,” as extortion.

“In its broadest sense, its blackmail,” one defense lawyer said, explaining that assuming the caller was Malvo, it does not prove he was killing anyone. “The evidence is not there; there’s no proof. It’s just not there.”

He did not explain how the physical evidence presented by the prosecution throughout the hearing failed to tie Malvo to the scene.

During the hearing, prosecutors called 25 witnesses.

Charles D. Coleman, a latent fingerprint specialist for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said he found two fingerprints belonging to Malvo, and only fingerprints belonging to Malvo, on the .223 caliber Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic assault rifle recovered from the blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice Malvo and Muhammad were arrested in. One was beneath a removable laser scope and the other was on the right side of a non-porous, gray, rubber grip on the body of the rifle.

He held the weapon in the air, pointing to the spot on the grip where he said he found a print of Malvo’s left ring finger. A latent fingerprint is one not visible to the naked eye. It can be impressed when skin, oil and grease leaves a mark on the surface a finger comes in contact with.

Bullet fragments and copper jackets recovered from a number of shooting scenes were fired from the Bushmaster found in Malvo’s and Muhammad’s possession “to the exclusion of all other firearms,” ATF Firearms Examiner Walter Dandridge Jr. said.

Those conclusions were reached after comparing grooves and striations from the fragments with test fired bullets after the rifle was in the authorities’ possession, Dandridge said. When asked by the defense, Dandridge said he had a 0-percent failure rate in his examinations.

Defense lawyers argued in their closing statement that none of the evidence tied Malvo to the scene of any of the shootings.

Malvo, short and slim, sat stoically throughout the entire proceeding, staring at witnesses as they testified.

He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Staff writer Daniel Drew can be reached at (703) 878-8065.

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