Lee Boyd Malvo
Pool  /  Getty Images
Lee Boyd Malvo is seen during his trial last year.
updated 3/10/2004 12:43:08 PM ET 2004-03-10T17:43:08

Teenage sniper Lee Boyd Malvo was sentenced to life in prison without parole Wednesday for an October 2002 killing spree in the Washington, D.C., area that left 10 people dead.

Malvo, 19, was sentenced a day after sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad was given the death penalty. Malvo did not speak at the brief hearing.

Malvo was convicted in December of the slaying of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47, outside a Falls Church, Va., Home Depot store. His defense team had argued that Malvo had been molded into a killer by the charismatic Muhammad.

Accomplice claims innocence
Muhammad used his sentencing hearing on Tuesday to again deny any role in the killings, echoing a claim of innocence he made at the start of his trial when he briefly served as his own attorney.

“Just like I said at the beginning, I had nothing to do with this, and I’ll say again, I had nothing to do with this,” Muhammad said.

Video: But Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. said the evidence of Muhammad’s guilt was “overwhelming” and sentenced him to death.

“These offenses are so vile that they were almost beyond comprehension,” Millette said.

Millette had the option of reducing the jury’s recommendation of death to life in prison without parole. Virginia law allows a judge to reduce a jury’s recommended sentence but not increase it.

Malvo juror speaks
Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush had no leeway to change the jury’s recommendation of life in prison for Malvo because that is the minimum punishment allowed for a capital murder conviction.

Doug Keefer, a juror who plans to write a book about the Malvo trial, said the jury made the right choice.

“For me the important part was he was convicted of the capital murder charges. It’s my opinion there was some influence from John Muhammad.”

Defense lawyer Craig Cooley also said Muhammad was an influence. “We do not believe anyone could have observed the evidence ... and believed Lee Malvo would be here except for the influence of John Muhammad,” Cooley said.

Next steps unclear
It’s unclear what will happen next with Malvo. Prosecutors in other states, including Alabama and Louisiana, are seeking his extradition to face potential death-penalty charges there for killings that occurred in the weeks before the D.C. sniper spree.

Prosecutors in Prince William County, who obtained the death penalty against Muhammad, initially said they wanted to seek the death penalty against Malvo as well. But they have recently said they may want to wait and see the outcome of a pending U.S. Supreme Court case on the execution of juveniles. Malvo was 17 at the time of the sniper spree.

Muhammad appeared in court Tuesday with a slightly graying, unkempt beard, in sharp contrast to his clean-shaven, well-dressed appearance at trial.

Victims' families react
About 50 family members of sniper victims were in the courtroom. One silently shook his fist as Millette announced the sentence.

“Justice has been served today,” said Sonia Wills, mother of sniper victim Conrad Johnson, who would have been 37 this Sunday. “I can go to my son’s grave and wish him a happy birthday.”

The sister of Hong Im Ballenger, allegedly killed by Muhammad and Malvo in Baton Rouge, La., in the weeks before the D.C. attacks, said Muhammad deserved to die.

“He killed so many innocent people,” said a tearful Kwang Im Szuszka. “My nephew is 12 years old and he needs his mommy. ... It breaks my heart.”

Muhammad, 43, was convicted of capital murder on Nov. 17 for the Oct. 9, 2002, murder of Dean Harold Meyers at a gas station near Manassas.

The capital-area killings began on Oct. 2, 2002, when the pair shot a 55-year-old man to death outside a Wheaton, Md., supermarket. The following day, five people were killed in the Washington area — four within a span of about two hours.

Muhammad and Malvo were captured Oct. 24 at a highway rest stop near Myersville, Md., in a car that had been altered to allow someone to fire a high-powered rifle from inside the trunk.

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