- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 21, 2006

Lee Boyd Malvo has since his October 2002 arrest vacillated between anger at John Allen Muhammad, his accomplice in the sniper shootings that left 10 persons dead, and loyalty to the man who accepted him as a son.

This week, Malvo likely will reveal how he now feels when testifying, as expected, against Muhammad, who is said to have brainwashed him into a killing machine.

Muhammad, who has been convicted and sentenced to death for a sniper killing in Virginia, is on trial in the six homicides in Montgomery County during the three-week rampage that terrorized area residents. Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, was convicted of a different sniper killing in Virginia and sentenced to life in prison.

A person close to the case said Malvo is expected to plead guilty to the Maryland charges against him. The person requested anonymity because the deal was not officially set. Neither Malvo’s attorney, Tim Sullivan, nor Montgomery County prosecutors could comment because of a gag order in place.

Malvo’s testimony, which could come as early as today, will be particularly compelling because nobody knows what he will say.

Malvo confessed shortly after his arrest to being the triggerman in all of the shootings but later recanted and told mental-health experts hired by his attorneys that Muhammad, 45, was the shooter in nearly all the deaths.

Malvo’s court-appointed attorneys in Virginia have said their client changed his mind frequently about his feelings toward Muhammad, even more than a year after the two were arrested and separated.

Malvo’s attorneys contended that Muhammad brainwashed the teenager and turned him into a killer and that Malvo never fully separated himself from Muhammad, despite great anger about the path on which Muhammad led him.

Muhammad continues to view Malvo as his son, frequently referring to him as such during this trial, in which he is acting as his own lawyer.

Muhammad promised in his opening statement that he would prove his and Malvo’s innocence. He has also described how Malvo saved his son, John Jr., from drowning on a Caribbean beach.

“Ever since then, I swore to Lee — my son Lee Boyd Malvo — and my children that I would always protect them,” Muhammad said.

The pair is also suspected of earlier shootings in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland and Washington state.

Malvo’s anticipated testimony may electrify a trial that so far has largely been devoid of drama: Muhammad was sentenced to death at his Virginia Beach trial in 2003 and faces at most a life sentence if convicted in Maryland. Much of the testimony at the Montgomery County trial, now beginning its fourth week, has been a carbon copy of the evidence introduced at Muhammad’s first trial, which was moved from Prince William County.

Muhammad representing himself, as he did briefly in the first trial, has brought an element of unpredictability. But more often than not, his cross-examinations have been tedious and nitpicking, especially when scientific evidence, such as ballistics, is introduced.

Associated Press writer Stephen Manning contributed to this report.

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