A Fairfax County grand jury on Tuesday indicted Lee Boyd Malvo, the 17-year-old suspect in the sniper attacks, for capital murder. He may now be tried in Circuit Court as an adult and, during his jury trial, Virginia is expected to seek the death penalty.
Malvo is charged with the Oct. 14 murder of 47-year-old Arlington resident Linda Franklin, an FBI analyst, outside a Home Depot store in Falls Church. She and her husband, William, had just finished two hours of shopping there. They were trying to fit an oversized shelf into their car — parked on the first level of the store parking lot — when she was shot.
Although Malvo's trial is currently set for Feb. 25, one of his attorneys predicted it would not take place for some time. “The Muhammed trial is scheduled for October,” said defense attorney Tom Walsh. “It would be a nightmare for them to try both cases at the same time with the same evidence … The Muhammed trial will most likely go first.”
But Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said he expects the trial to take place this summer. "There are going to be so many motions filed in this case," he said.
LAST WEEK, Judge Charles J. Maxfield ruled there was probable cause to send Malvo's case to the grand jury.
"It is true that there is no eyewitness that places the defendant on any of the four crime scenes," said Maxfield during Malvo's preliminary hearing, Jan. 15, in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. "However, the circumstantial evidence is quite strong."
Despite the two-day testimony of 24 witnesses who Horan called to testify, Malvo's attorneys claim there's no evidence placing Malvo at the scenes of the shootings. "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 on a bag of cinnamon-coated raisins. All are reportedly identical to Malvo's fingerprints.
Witnesses also said microscopic markings on bullets fired by the seized rifle are identical to bullet fragments found by police at the 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. At this juncture, he is clearly — at a minimum — an accessory to a number of killings in Fairfax County and Prince William County. The trigger-man rule doesn't play into the game until we are talking about life or death."
Before the grand jury met Tuesday, Todd Petit, Malvo's court-appointed guardian, said Malvo understands the prosecution's intent. Said Petit: "He knows he was brought to Virginia with the hope of executing him."