SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. — Teenage sniper Lee Boyd Malvo accepted a deal Tuesday in which he avoided the death penalty and was sentenced to life in prison without parole for one of 10 slayings that terrorized the Washington area in October 2002.
Malvo, 19, who is already serving a life sentence for another one of the killings, dropped his appeals of that conviction in connection with Tuesday’s plea agreement. He could still face death penalty prosecutions in other slayings.
Malvo was sentenced Tuesday for the Oct. 11, 2002, killing of businessman Kenneth Bridges. Under the plea deal, he also received an additional life sentence for shooting Caroline Seawell on Oct. 4, 2002. She recovered.
Malvo’s guilty plea took the form of an Alford plea, in which Malvo did not admit factual guilt but acknowledged that the government had enough evidence to convict him. He cannot appeal the sentence.
Malvo declined to make a statement before he was sentenced.
Victims’ families on board
Spotsylvania Commonwealth’s Attorney William Neely said that he consulted with the victims’ families and that they supported the plea bargain.
“He’s spending the rest of his life in a maximum-security prison where he’ll be locked down 23 hours a day, seven days a week for the rest of his life,” Neely said.
Malvo was convicted last year and sentenced to life in prison for the Oct. 14, 2002, murder of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, one of the sniper killings over a three-week span in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. His accomplice, John Allen Muhammad, is on Virginia’s death row for one of the slayings.
Neely said after Tuesday’s hearing that Malvo appeared to be heavily influenced by Muhammad. When Malvo was tried last year, his attorneys put on an insanity defense, claiming Muhammad had brainwashed Malvo into a killing machine.
Neely said he doubted that he could obtain a death penalty against Malvo given his youth and the sympathy that a brainwashing claim might win.
Death in other cases still possible
Malvo could still face the death penalty in Prince William County, as well as in Alabama and Louisiana, where he and Muhammad are charged with other murders in the weeks and months before the sniper spree.
Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert, who obtained a death sentence for Muhammad, has said he will pursue the death penalty against Malvo if the Supreme Court rules this fall that the execution of 16- and 17-year-olds is constitutional.
Defense lawyer Craig Cooley said that because Malvo faces possible death penalty prosecution elsewhere, it was wise to enter the Alford plea. Malvo “accepts responsibility to the extent that he is serving life in prison without parole,” Cooley said.
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