- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2004

A Louisiana prosecutor says he is intent on trying convicted sniper Lee Boyd Malvo and plans to pursue the death penalty, unless the U.S. Supreme Court rules this summer against executing minors.

Rejecting any possibility of a plea deal, Baton Rouge 1st District Attorney John Sinquefield said yesterday, “What’s waiting in Louisiana for a person that took part in killing 15 people, including killing a fine Christian woman on the streets of Louisiana, what’s waiting down here is exposure to the death penalty.

“He’s not going to get a plea bargain. He’s not going to get out of this. Serial killers deserve to die. I hope that’s what ultimately happens to him for hiding in the trunk of that car and shooting people,” Mr. Sinquefield said.

Plea agreement talks between prosecutors and Malvo’s attorneys are under way in Spotsylvania County, Va., where Kenneth H. Bridges, 53, was shot and killed Oct. 11, 2002, said Spotsylvania Commonwealth’s Attorney William F. Neely. Under that agreement, Malvo would plead guilty to murder charges in Mr. Bridges’ death and be sentenced to life in prison without parole, Mr. Neely said.

However, Mr. Neely said, “Once Virginia’s finished with him, … the other states have the right to go forward. We can’t just sit on him indefinitely.”

Mr. Sinquefield plans to prosecute Malvo, 19, in the Sept. 23, 2002, fatal shooting of Hong Im Ballenger, 45, who was killed outside the beauty-supply store she managed in Baton Rouge. Two witnesses testified in last fall’s trial of the convicted sniper mastermind , John Allen Muhammad, that they saw Malvo bend over Miss Ballenger to take her purse and then run from the scene.

Malvo and Muhammad, 43, each were convicted of two counts of capital murder in Virginia last year. On Tuesday, a judge followed a Virginia Beach jury’s recommendation to sentence Muhammad to death. On Wednesday, a judge confirmed a Chesapeake jury’s recommendation of life in prison without parole for Malvo.

Malvo was found guilty in December of the Oct. 14, 2002, fatal shooting of Linda Franklin, 47, outside the Falls Church Home Depot. Muhammad was found guilty in November of the Oct. 9, 2002, fatal shooting of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, at a Manassas gas station. Thirteen persons were shot during the Washington-area sniper spree, and 10 of them died. The two men have been tied to nine other shootings across the county, five of them fatal.

The evidence against Malvo in Baton Rouge is considered some of the strongest of any jurisdiction. Prince William County, Va., however, is next in line to prosecute Malvo. Paul B. Ebert, Prince William commonwealth’s attorney, said Wednesday that he will wait to prosecute Malvo until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the death sentence for juvenile offenders, which it plans to do in its upcoming term.

After Prince William, Baton Rouge will be in competition with Spotsylvania, Montgomery County, Md., and Montgomery, Ala., to try Malvo next. But Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., the first to prosecute Malvo, has said he thinks that after one more trial in Northern Virginia, Malvo could be sent to Louisiana.

Mr. Sinquefield, whose office has obtained 21 death sentences in 25 tries in the past 13 years, said he is “very confident” that he could obtain a death sentence for Malvo.

“Some types of murders, I don’t think jurors down here are going to buy it. Killing 15 [persons], that’s going a little too far, even for a 17-year-old,” Mr. Sinquefield said.

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