- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Last week, two Maryland prison guards shocked spectators in a Fairfax County courtroom with testimony that sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo had bragged to them about a killing spree that stretched from Tacoma, Wash., to Montgomery, Ala.

The guards’ story also came as a surprise to some police across the country, who say they had not been informed of Mr. Malvo’s purported confession.

In Arizona, Tucson police spokeswoman Michelle Pickrom said detectives there learned in newspaper reports that Mr. Malvo told a prison guard about shooting “a senator on a golf course.”

Police are investigating the death of Jerry Taylor, 60, who died March 19 after being shot by a single bullet from long distance while practicing chip shots at the Fred Enke Golf Course in Tucson.

Mr. Taylor was not a senator. But Mr. Malvo and fellow sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad were in Tucson at the time of the shooting and have been subjects of the murder investigation there.

“It’s fair to say we might like to be kept apprised of any information that might help us solve an unsolved homicide, and that’s what we have at this point,” Miss Pickrom said.

It is not entirely clear that the reference to shooting a senator on a golf course is related to the Tucson shooting. Mr. Malvo and Mr. Muhammad also are being investigated in a golf course shooting in Clearwater, Fla., in which the victim survived.

Mr. Malvo discussed numerous shootings just two days after his Oct. 24 arrest, according to his guards at the Supermax prison in Baltimore, Joseph Stracke and Wayne Davis.

Mr. Malvo told Mr. Stracke that he shot Iran Brown, 13, a student at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, to anger Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose, who was head of the sniper investigation. Mr. Malvo told Mr. Stracke the strategy worked, noting Chief Moose’s angry, tearful response to the boy’s shooting at a subsequent press conference. He recently resigned from the force.

Mr. Malvo also told the guards about the golf course shooting, shooting a young black girl when she answered the door, and shooting a schoolmate who had bullied him once. Mr. Davis testified, however, that he believed Mr. Malvo was exaggerating during the conversation.

The shooting of the young black girl appears to correspond to the death of 21-year-old Keenya Cook in Tacoma, Wash.

Miss Cook was shot Feb. 16, 2002, while standing in the doorway of her relatives’ home. Her aunt, Isa Nichols, did accounting work for Mr. Muhammad’s auto-repair business. When Mr. Muhammad and his second wife divorced and Mr. Muhammad took their three children, Mrs. Nichols called police to help the children’s mother get them back.

Unlike in Tucson, police in Tacoma had been informed about the prison guards’ conversations with Mr. Malvo, spokesman James Mattheis said.

“It’s just another piece of evidence,” Mr. Mattheis said. “It’s still an ongoing investigation at this point.

Mr. Malvo also told Mr. Stracke that it was Mr. Muhammad who pulled the trigger in two killings in Montgomery, Ala., according to last week’s testimony.

Montgomery Police Chief John Wilson said yesterday that his investigators did not learn about the conversations until hearing news reports. Overall, though, he said cooperation between his agency and the sniper task force investigating the killings in the Washington area has been good.

“It’s not something we’re overly concerned with,” Chief Wilson said. “We have more than ample evidence” including eyewitnesses who place Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo at the shooting scene there.

Defense attorneys want the guards’ testimony kept out of Mr. Malvo’s upcoming trial, arguing that the conversations amounted to an interrogation by law enforcement after the teenager had invoked his right to remain silent. Prosecutors contend Mr. Malvo spoke willingly and the testimony should be permitted.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., who will prosecute Mr. Malvo in Chesapeake, Va., said he was certain the sniper task force, comprising local, state and federal police agencies from the Washington area, shared the conversations with Tacoma police. He was not certain about the other agencies. Ideally, he said, all the agencies would have been informed.

He said that from a practical standpoint, it may be years before some jurisdictions are able to prosecute either Mr. Malvo, 18, or Mr. Muhammad, 42, who are charged or suspected in the 13 Washington-area sniper shootings as well as shootings in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Washington state and Arizona.

But Cheryll Witz, Mr. Taylor’s daughter, said that even if Arizona never prosecutes Mr. Malvo, she still wants a definitive answer about her father’s death.

“If Malvo confessed to it, that would be all we need to know,” she said. “I wouldn’t have to have a conviction.”

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