A grand jury hearing for Lee Boyd Malvo, the 17-year-old suspect in the sniper attacks, ended Tuesday afternoon.
But Fairfax Commonwealth Attorney Robert Horan refused to confirm that the grand jury had handed down an indictment against Malvo for the Oct. 14 murder of Linda Franklin.
“We don’t release that information until it is on the docket,” Horan said. But, he added, “You can assume he is going to be tried.”
Malvo is charged with the Oct. 14 murder of Arlington resident Franklin, 47, outside a Home Depot store in Falls Church.
William Franklin and his wife had just finished two hours of shopping at the Home Depot in Seven Corners on Oct. 14, 2002.
They were attempting to fit an oversized shelf into their red Mercury Caprice parked on the first level of the Falls Church store’s parking garage when Linda Franklin was shot, at approximately 9:15 p.m.
"We started putting our stuff in the trunk. We put the back seat down and tried putting the shelf through from the back seat," said Franklin, the first witness to testify during Malvo's two-day preliminary hearing on Jan. 14-15.
"At Home Depot, you hear a lot of things falling to the ground. That's what I thought it was. It sounded like a board hitting the ground.
"I felt something hit me on the side of my face, which made me look around to see what happened. I looked at the rear of my car and saw my wife laying on the ground. There was nothing I could do so I called the police."
When asked what happened next, Franklin said several people saw what happened and ran away.
"The police arrived first. I stayed right by my wife," said Franklin. He said he put his hand on her leg and on her side.
ANY TRIAL for Malvo on the murder charge would probably not take place until 2004, said Thomas Walsh, one of Malvo’s defense attorneys. Trial date has been set for Feb. 25, but it has become clear that that date will not be met.
“The Muhammad trial is set for October. It would be a nightmare for them to try both cases at the same time with the same evidence,” said Walsh, and the Muhammad trial will most likely go first.
But Horan said he expected that Malvo’s trial would take place this summer.
Todd Petit, Malvo’s court-appointed guardian, said that Malvo is realistic about why the case is being tried in Virginia. “He knows he was brought to Virginia with the hope of executing him,” Petit said.
Juvenile judge Charles J. Maxfield ruled on Jan. 15 that there was probable cause to send Malvo's case to the grand jury, the necessary step before a juvenile can tried as an adult in Circuit Court.
"It is true that there is no eyewitness that places the defendant on any of the four crime scenes. However, the circumstantial evidence is quite strong," said Maxfield during Malvo's preliminary hearing on Jan. 15 at the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
Despite the two-day testimony of 24 witnesses that were brought to testify by Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan, Malvo's attorneys claim that there is no evidence that places Malvo at the scenes of the shootings.
"There is no evidence, it is just not there," said Michael Arif, lead attorney for Malvo. "However loud Mr. Horan speaks, the facts don't show probable cause."
Fingerprint experts testified that the fingerprint found on the rifle seized in the arrest of Malvo and John Lee Muhammed, 42, can be matched with fingerprints on notes left to police by the snipers as well as a bag of cinnamon-coated raisins. All are identical to Malvo's fingerprints.
Witnesses also say that bullets fired by the seized rifle match bullet fragments found by police at the crime scenes of some of the sniper shootings, including Franklin's.
"The evidence is the rifle that has been sitting here all day," said Horan. "It was found sitting four feet away from the defendant when he was arrested on Oct. 24."
If the grand jury indicts Malvo as expected, the 17-year-old, who will turn 18 in February, will face a jury trial. Virginia is expected to seek the death penalty in the case.
"At this juncture, he is clearly — at a minimum — an accessory to a number of killings in Fairfax County and Prince William County,” said Horan. “The triggerman rule doesn't play into the game until we are talking about life or death."