- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2003

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Lee Boyd Malvo tried to resist joining last year’s sniper rampage and even tried to shoot himself two months before the attacks began, but he could not escape the mind control of John Allen Muhammad, a psychiatrist testified yesterday.

“He viewed himself as ready to die for [Muhammad] but had doubts, became suicidal and tried to shoot himself,” said Diane H. Schetky, a forensic psychiatrist who interviewed the teenage sniper suspect twice in jail.

The psychiatrist said the suicide attempt occurred in Baton Rouge, La., in August 2003, but did not provide more information about it.

Dr. Schetky said Mr. Malvo, 18, was brainwashed by Muhammad, 42, through techniques such as isolation, sleep deprivation, strict military and physical training, and intense indoctrination mixed with quixotic religious and political belief systems.

“His whole identity had become merged with Mr. Muhammad,” said Dr. Schetky, an expert in child and adolescent psychology. “His motive was pleasing Mr. Muhammad.”

During two hours of testimony in the Malvo capital murder trial yesterday, Dr. Schetky explained how a childhood of abuse and abandonment left the defendant emotionally scarred and vulnerable to manipulation by Muhammad.

But the court recessed for the day before she could testify that the sniper suspect was legally insane at the time of the crimes.

Dr. Schetky will continue testifying today and is expected to say Mr. Malvo was legally insane during the October 2002 sniper attacks in which 10 persons were killed and three wounded in the Washington area.

Presenting an insanity defense, Mr. Malvo’s attorneys are trying to convince the jury that their client is not guilty because he was being controlled by Muhammad.

Mr. Malvo is being tried on two counts of capital murder in the Oct. 14, 2002, slaying of Linda Franklin, 47, outside a Falls Church Home Depot. One murder count falls under Virginia’s new antiterrorism law, the other under a serial-killer law.

A Virginia Beach jury has recommended that Muhammad be executed for his role in the sniper attacks.

Dr. Schetky’s testimony yesterday bolstered the defense theory about the convicted sniper’s control of the teenager. She said Muhammad had convinced the youth that the sniper attacks were part of an Islamic holy war that would free oppressed black Americans and lead to the creation of a utopian commune in Canada.

“This seemed pretty far-fetched, but he believed it,” Dr. Schetky said of the teenager. “He seemed oblivious to the contradiction. How are you improving the lives of black people by killing them?”

She said the defendant has since begun to emerge from the control of Muhammad, whom he considered his surrogate father, but he has not completely regained his sense of identity or come to terms with what has happened in his life.

“He feels he was used by him. He said, ‘A father would not put a son in harm’s way,’” Dr. Schetky said.

Meanwhile, clinical psychologist Dewey Cornell testified yesterday that Mr. Malvo admitted to killing at least two persons and wounding another, though the defendant recanted his confession to the murder for which he is on trial.

Mr. Cornell, who examined the sniper suspect, said the teenager claimed Muhammad pulled the trigger on all the sniper shootings except the Oct. 22, 2002, fatal shooting of Ride On bus driver Conrad Johnson, 35, in Aspen Hill, Md.

The suspect also took responsibility for the February 2002 killing of Keenya Cook, 21, who was shot in the face as she opened the door of her home in Tacoma, Wash. He also said he shot Paul LaRuffa, 55, six times in front of his restaurant in Clinton, Md., in September 2002.

During cross-examination, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. pointed out that the defendant has been living with Muhammad for about three months when Miss Cook was shot.

“By February 16 he goes out and shoots a woman he doesn’t know and kills her?” he asked

Mr. Cornell answered that Mr. Malvo was completely brainwashed at the time and didn’t need a reason to kill Miss Cook other than an order from Muhammad.

“How about meanness? How’s that for a reason?” asked Mr. Horan.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide