12 • THE CONFESSION
Following the Snipers’ arrest, police interview Malvo and Muhammad separately. And investigators learn more about the pair’s nationwide crime spree.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Welcome to Monster: DC Sniper, a production of iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are solely those of the podcast author or individuals participating in the podcast and do not represent those of iHeartMedia, Tenderfoot TV, or their employees. Listener discretion is advised.
Tony Harris: 00:21 September 5th, 2002. Clinton, Maryland. About a month before the DC Sniper attacks began and two months before investigators found Paul LaRuffa’s laptop in the sniper’s car. LaRuffa was ambushed.
Paul LaRuffa: 00:35 It’s pretty amazing that you go from just an ordinary routine to all of a sudden, you’re part of this crazy thing that happened that’s one of the largest manhunts in history.
Tony Harris: 00:47 At the end of a long, busy day, he closed down his family restaurant with a couple of friends. He put the day’s earnings in a bank bag and wished his friends good night.
Paul LaRuffa: 00:57 I locked up the restaurant, set the alarm. We all walked to our cars. I got in the driver’s side, shut the door, and before I could do anything, the window to my left exploded.
Dispatcher: 01:13 Prince George’s Emergency 911 Center.
911 Caller 1: 01:17 There’s been a shooting at Margellina Restaurant. 9009 Stewart Lane.
Dispatcher: 01:22 Stay on the line.
911 Caller 1: 01:22 Oh God.
Dispatcher: 01:24 Are you the one who got shot?
911 Caller 1: 01:28 No, ma’am. It was the owner. I think he got shot and robbed. I heard the gunshots, and I know who he is.
Dispatcher: 01:30 It was a robbery and a shooting?
911 Caller 1: 01:31 Yes, ma’am.
Dispatcher: 01:32 Okay.
911 Caller 1: 01:36 Shit. This is not good.
Dispatcher: 01:39 Got the ambulance and the police officer on the way. Who did this?
911 Caller 1: 01:40 I have no idea, I couldn’t tell from the back. Black jacket, black backpack, and a black cap.
Dispatcher: 01:47 What type of weapon was used?
911 Caller 1: 01:48 All I heard was gunshots. I don’t know if he’s hurt or not. I took off.
Paul LaRuffa: 01:53 Five shots came in the window, they all hit me. They went from a tremendous sound that deafened my left ear, then within seconds, it became incredibly quiet. I didn’t have time to blink, let alone see anything. All I saw was a flash of light and that was it. I was bleeding out of my chest and my upper back, lower neck because one of the shots hit me from that angle. So I leaned on the horn to just attract anybody who would be around and leaned on it and leaned on it, and then I opened the door, I was able to get out of the car and stand up, and one of the guys that I left with was walking towards me. He was dialing his cell phone.
911 Caller 2: 02:52 911. I’m at Margellina’s on Stewart Lane in Clinton, Maryland. I need an ambulance right here. A guy came out from behind the store and shot Paul LaRuffa and-
Paul LaRuffa: 03:04 Hurry up, please!
911 Caller 2: 03:05 He’s bleeding-
Dispatch 2: 03:05 All right. The person that you’re talking to, are they in a car?
911 Caller 2: 03:10 No, he was in the car. He’s standing outside the car.
Paul LaRuffa: 03:13 Hurry up!
Dispatch 2: 03:14 All right. Don’t have him stand, try to get him to sit down and not move around.
911 Caller 2: 03:18 Paul, can you sit in the car? He said you could sit down and not move around.
Paul LaRuffa: 03:23 All right, because I don’t want to die here.
Paul LaRuffa: 03:25 The pressure of the blood inside me was collapsing my lungs. I didn’t know that’s what’s happening, all I know is that I was suffocating. They said they were going to get a helicopter, but then the helicopter was too far away, so they were just sending regular EMTs, and they did. They got there, got me into the ambulance, I was really having trouble breathing, and I just had the feeling that we weren’t going that quickly, so I would say, “How much longer? How much longer?” And they said, “Not that much longer.” Finally, we got to the hospital and there was a team there ready, and they rolled me into the Emergency Room and just basically did exactly how you see it on TV. There were four, five, six people around me just doing what they had to do to save my life. They got me into surgery and for six or seven hours picked out as many of the bullet fragments as they could and sewed me up and saved my life.
Paul LaRuffa: 04:34 So that’s what happened the first night, and then I spent just about another week in the hospital. I was three days on a breathing machine in Intensive Care because I couldn’t breathe, so after that, they tested and took me off, and it was still tough, but I could breathe on my own. After about a week, I said I really wanted to go home and they said okay. So I left the hospital with a contraption for my left arm. The most lasting physical effect from one of the bullets is that it severed a nerve in my arm. I could close my hand, but I wasn’t able to open it again, so they had therapists that designed and made a brace-type thing for my hand. It had rubber bands on it, and it would spring back and pull my fingers apart and open my hand. I actually had that on about a year before the nerve grew back and gave me function in my hand. And to this day, it’s not 100%. But anyway, that was the lasting physical effect.
Paul LaRuffa: 05:45 Of course, I went through tremendous mental effect of it, starting with the first night I was in the hospital I had flashbacks that were incredible. You literally relive it. If you’ve ever had a nightmare where you’re scared or somebody is chasing you, it’s that times 10 because you really relive it. You hear it. Your ears hear that sound and you feel it and it’s just terrible. It’s horrible. You can’t turn it off, you can’t make it stop, it just happens. It happened every night.
Paul LaRuffa: 06:28 I was shot September 5th. They didn’t catch them until October 24th, so for at least that time and probably a little more, I had that flashback all the time. So that was hard and then it began to wane and lessen. Mostly, I think because they were caught. After they were caught, they found my computer and they put the whole thing together. Muhammad’s wife lived right down the road from the restaurant.
Male reporter: 07:05 There is a ruthless person on the loose.
Female reporter: 07:08 What unnerves this community the most is the randomness of the murders. Ordinary people doing ordinary things.
Paul LaRuffa: 07:16 They killed the five people in one day and then went on the rampage for the next month.
Male reporter 2: 07:21 It is quite a mystery. The police say they have never had a crime quite like this.
Police: 07:26 Be careful. These guys are using weapons that are going to go right straight through our bulletproof vests.
911 Caller 3: 07:33 There’s a white van that just went by with two guys in it!
Tony Harris: 07:35 From iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV, this is Monster: DC Sniper.
Tony Harris: 07:42 Following Muhammad and Malvo’s arrest on October 24th, investigators wondered whether others were involved in planning the attacks and they were also trying to solve one of the biggest mysteries in the case. What was the motivation? That question would become increasingly important as they prepared for the upcoming trials. Muhammad and Malvo had been brought to Montgomery County and interviewed. Muhammad initially talked, saying he was innocent, but then quickly asked for his lawyer. Malvo refused to speak at all, so investigators turned to evidence from the blue Caprice. Forensic from the Bushmaster they found in the car matched bullets from the shootings. They found LaRuffa’s laptop, which led them to his shooting, and they began retracing Muhammad and Malvo’s steps using other evidence they found in the car, like receipts and phone cards, and investigators unraveled a whole new string of crimes.
Paul LaRuffa: 08:38 They didn’t have a car. They had come across country by buses and hitchhiking. What they did was, they took the money that was in my bank bag. They got about $3600 in cash, which financed their whole operation. They went to Jersey and bought the car.
Tony Harris: 08:56 From Clinton, Maryland, Muhammad and Malvo traveled up to Trenton, New Jersey. DMV records show that on September 10th, 2002, John Muhammad paid $250 to purchase the blue Caprice from a dealership called Shore Shot Auto Sales. Reportedly, when Muhammad looked at it in the lot, he asked the dealer to open the trunk and then climbed inside. And there was a strange incident on the next day, September 11th, 2002, the first anniversary of the terror attacks. While Muhammad registered the car in Camden, the DMV building received a bomb threat. Muhammad finished the registration just a few minutes before the building was evacuated. It’s still unclear if Muhammad or Malvo were involved with the bomb threat or if it was just a strange coincidence. After buying and registering the car in New Jersey, Muhammad and Malvo headed south.
Tony Harris: 09:54 Prepaid phone cards found in the Caprice showed that by the next night, September 12th, they were back in the DC area. Outside a Shopper’s Food Warehouse in Alexandria, Virginia, they used one of these phone cards to place a call to Antigua. Then, two nights later on September 14th in Montgomery County, Maryland, a liquor store employee, Rupinder Oberoi was locking up the store when he heard a loud crack. Oberoi was shot.
911 Dispatch 3: 10:28 911, what’s your emergency?
911 Caller 4: 10:28 I’m calling again to report that someone apparently has gotten shot in the Hillendale Shopping Center by Safeway. Three ambulances have passed right by. One is across the street. I’ve said it each time. Other people are calling too. They’re driving right by and this man has been laying on this sidewalk.
Tony Harris: 10:46 Ultimately, Oberoi survived the attack. A witness nearby reported seeing an old car pull out of a parking space and drive away. The witness told police about it, but the officers were perplexed. Oberoi hadn’t been robbed and didn’t seem to have any enemies. After arresting the snipers and retracing their movements, police now suspect that the snipers had shot Oberoi. Investigators tried to analyze bullet fragments from the crime, but the pieces weren’t large enough to make any comparisons, and without firearm forensics, it was hard to prove.
Tony Harris: 11:22 The very next night, on September 15th, another attack took place at a liquor store, this one in Prince George’s County just miles from Paul LaRuffa’s restaurant and Mildred Muhammad’s home. It was raining as Muhammad Rashid locked up the store. He heard a loud sound and saw two bullet holes appear in the glass door in front of him. He turned and saw a young man holding a pistol. The man fired a third shot and he felt a bullet enter his abdomen. Rashid realized he was being robbed, so he made a split second decision to drop down and play dead. Rashid says the attacker rolled him over and rifled through his pockets. The attacker grabbed his wallet and then walked away. Rashid waited anxiously until he thought the man was gone, then he called 911 from his cell phone.
Muhammad Rashid: 12:14 Ma’am, I am dying. 13704. Somebody [inaudible 00:12:19] me.
Dispatch 4: 12:19 Have you been shot?
Muhammad Rashid: 12:20 Yeah, yeah, yeah. In my belly, stomach. 13704 Brandywine Road! Call paramedics!
Dispatch 4: 12:28 I’m going to help you, okay? Do you know who shot you?
Muhammad Rashid: 12:31 No, no, no. I am working.
Dispatch 4: 12:33 Is somebody there with you?
Muhammad Rashid: 12:34 Nobody is with me.
Dispatch 4: 12:35 Okay, okay. I want you to sit down, I want you to take your shirt off and put it tightly into the stomach where you were shot, okay?
Muhammad Rashid: 12:42 Okay, ma-am-
Dispatch 4: 12:42 I’m staying with you. What’s your name?
Muhammad Rashid: 12:45 Muhammad.
Dispatch 4: 12:46 Okay, I’m going to clear the line. We’ve got somebody going to you right now. Did somebody rob you?
Muhammad Rashid: 12:50 Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dispatch 4: 12:51 Okay. Are you outside?
Muhammad Rashid: 12:52 Yes. Come please.
Dispatch 4: 12:54 Okay, we’re going to help you. What’s your cell phone number?
Muhammad Rashid: 13:01 You are wasting time!
Dispatch 4: 13:01 Muhammad, I’m not the one going out. We’ve already got an ambulance going to you. I’m here with you, okay?
Muhammad Rashid: 13:06 Oh!
Dispatch 4: 13:06 Listen to me. Take deep breaths and try to stay as quiet as you can. Okay, I’m right here with you. I’m not going to go anywhere.
Muhammad Rashid: 13:15 Oh my God. Oh my God.
Dispatch 4: 13:18 Okay, Muhammad, Muhammad, the person who shot you, white or black?
Muhammad Rashid: 13:21 Black.
Dispatch 4: 13:21 How old?
Muhammad Rashid: 13:21 This is not [inaudible 00:13:22] something.
Dispatch 4: 13:21 I need to put the log in. We’re already coming to you. How old is he?
Muhammad Rashid: 13:31 About 25 to 30.
Dispatch 4: 13:32 You’re doing great. And what was he wearing, Muhammad?
Muhammad Rashid: 13:34 Ugh.
Dispatch 4: 13:35 Come on, you can do it. What color shirt?
Muhammad Rashid: 13:37 Some kind of dark color, maybe gray.
Dispatch 4: 13:39 Okay. Gray shirt. Did he have a gun?
Muhammad Rashid: 13:41 Yeah, he had a pistol.
Dispatch 4: 13:42 Which way did he run?
Muhammad Rashid: 13:43 Behind the store.
Dispatch 4: 13:45 He went behind the store?
Muhammad Rashid: 13:47 Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dispatch 4: 13:47 Okay. I know they’re coming to you now, but stay until they get there, Muhammad.
Tony Harris: 13:50 Rashid was treated and survived. Surgeons recovered the bullet from his abdomen and gave it to police. Investigators tested the round. It came back as being from the same pistol used in the LaRuffa shooting. The silver revolver that investigators would later find in Alabama, following the liquor store shooting there.
Tony Harris: 14:12 On September 18th, three days after shooting Rashid, the snipers used a phone card to make a call from outside the Ponderosa Steakhouse in Ashland, Virginia. The very same restaurant where they would later shoot Jeffrey Hopper as he walked through the parking lot with his wife. Then, another three days later, just after midnight on September 21st, Malvo and Muhammad were likely 500 miles southwest in the parking lot of a liquor store in Atlanta, Georgia. It was 12:16 AM, and inside were two employees, Mimi Tadesse and Million Waldemariam, both Ethiopian immigrants. The store was closed, so they wondered why a car was idling in the parking lot. Reportedly, Waldemariam wanted to investigate. Tadesse was worried and told him not to go outside, but he did anyway.
Tony Harris: 15:05 Seconds after Waldemariam walked outside, Tadesse heard three gunshots. Waldemariam had been shot twice in the upper back and once in the back of the head. He died in the hospital. It’s unclear if the bullets from this shooting were ever analyzed forensically. Not even 24 hours later, Muhammad and Malvo were 150 miles southwest in Montgomery, Alabama, robbing the ABC Liquor Store, where they shot and killed Claudine Parker and wounded Kellie Adams. Two days after the Alabama shootings, phone card records and receipts put the snipers in Muhammad’s hometown, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There, at 6:40 PM, Hong Im Ballenger had just finished closing up the beauty shop where she worked. Ballenger had just reached her car when she was shot in the head. She died almost instantly. Another employee who was also leaving saw a large, dark car pull out of a vacant lot and pick up a black man who had grabbed Ballenger’s purse. Police found a bullet fragment embedded in Balenger’s side view mirror. It appeared to have come from a .223 rifle, but the case went cold.
Tony Harris: 16:27 After the snipers’ arrest, investigators reanalyzed the bullet fragment from the shooting and they matched it to the snipers’ Bushmaster rifle. Ballenger was a victim of the snipers, likely the last one before the snipers returned to Maryland and began their DC attacks. They’d likely kill three and injure four more in a span of 18 days, all before the spree in DC even started. But why did the snipers then switch from this pattern of parking lot robberies to seemingly random killings in DC? Although investigators were learning more about the scope of the snipers’ attacks, their motive still remained a mystery. The only people who could really answer the question of why were Lee Boyd Malvo and John Muhammad. Investigators needed one of them to crack under questioning.
Tony Harris: 17:38 Immediately after the snipers’ arrest, a battle began brewing in the DC area with attorneys fighting over where the snipers should be tried. On October 25th, 2002, just the day after the snipers were arrested, Montgomery County prosecutor Doug Ganzler held a news conference before he even learned Malvo’s age or last name.
Doug Ganzler: 17:59 The Montgomery County Police Department will obtain an arrest warrant for the arrest of John Muhammad, age 41, and Lee Salvo, age 19, for six counts of first-degree murder. The decision to charge these cases in Montgomery County, Maryland was reached after in depth consultation with local, state, and federal law enforcement officials. Montgomery County was the community most affected and most impacted by the sniper shootings. The investigation began and was centered here in Montgomery County.
Male Reporter 3: 18:33 The feds were furious, sources say, as local prosecutor Doug Ganzler walked to the microphones late today to announce that Montgomery County is filing the first charges in the sniper case. Federal prosecutors privately accused Ganzler of breaking an agreement not to file charges until the feds decide if they want to take over the case. In unusually harsh language, one federal official accused Ganzler of “exploiting this tragedy for political purposes”. So how did the sniper case, cracked only yesterday, up to now a model of cooperation between Chief Moose, the FBI and ATF, how did it unravel so fast, with prosecutors engaged in an unseemly fight of who gets the first crack at convicting them?
Tony Harris: 19:18 Two weeks later, on November 7th, US Attorney General John Ashcroft announced where Malvo and Muhammad would first be tried.
John Ashcroft: 19:27 For 23 days in October, our communities lived in fear. Innocent victims from Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Alabama, and Louisiana have paid the ultimate price. It is appropriate, it is imperative that the ultimate sanction be available. I have instructed the US Marshall service to transfer custody of John Allen Muhammad to Prince William County, Virginia. I have also instructed the Marshalls to transfer custody of a juvenile to Fairfax County, Virginia.
Tony Harris: 19:59 Right after his arrest, Muhammad had talked briefly with detectives, then clammed up and asked for his lawyer. Now, with federal charges dropped and state charges pending, two new investigators took their turn at trying to get Muhammad to talk.
Investigator: 20:15 Want us to take the handcuffs off of you?
John Muhammad: 20:17 May I please have something to eat, please?
Investigator: 20:17 Yeah, what would you like?
John Muhammad: 20:18 A salad with tomatoes.
Investigator: 20:24 Okay. A salad with tomatoes. And what else, sir?
John Muhammad: 20:24 Onions.
Investigator: 20:25 Onions? Okay.
Investigator: 20:27 John, look, we’re not here to jam you up or anything like that, all right? Certainly …
John Muhammad: 20:34 Can I get potatoes, beans, and rice with that?
Investigator: 20:35 Potatoes, beans, and rice. Any particular kind of potatoes, how you want them fixed or anything?
John Muhammad: 20:40 No.
Investigator: 20:42 Like I was telling you, Mr. Muhammad, I understand that you’ve talked to attorneys and that they’ve told you not to say anything. There’s been a lot of people who said that this was meaningless and senseless, but it had meaning. I believe it had meaning to you, and this may be your only opportunity to tell your story. Your lawyers are not going to put you on the stand because when your lawyer gets done asking any questions, you’re going to be subject to cross examination. They’re not going to put you on the stand. You need to say what you can say and raise the hat now, John.
Tony Harris: 21:21 Aside from his requests for food, John Muhammad just sat, stone-faced in the interrogation room. Detectives knew that Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo weren’t biologically related, but that he had often introduced Lee to friends as his son, so the detectives tried to use John’s relationship with Lee to get him to talk.
Investigator: 21:41 I would assume that since you all were taken into custody that you have not talked to him, and I would imagine that’s very difficult for you. He’s alone, he’s afraid. But as a father myself, I know the pain this must cause you also, not being able to reach him in his time of trouble when he needs your love more than he needs anything else, so if you don’t do anything else here for yourself, do this for your son. Tell us the truth. Tell us what the meaning is behind this. Let’s do some damage control here and in some way, try and spare his life. Did Lee pull the trigger? Did Lee do any of the shootings? I can tell you what Lee’s going to do. Just based on what I know about kids and what I know about their love for their parents. To save his own life, that boy’s not going to say, “It was all my daddy, it wasn’t me.” You know that in your heart. There’s only one person that has any hope of saving his life and that’s going to be you because if you don’t say anything, he’s not going to say anything, and Lee’s going to lose his life over this.
Investigator: 23:03 John, they’re going to make an assumption that Lee pulled the trigger. They’re going to base it on the fact that that was a small area back there and that in all likelihood, you were driving. Being more mature, you would be able to drive with more calm and care. All we want to know is the truth, and I don’t want to see a 17-year-old kid put to death needlessly. At 17, he is not a man, he’s a kid and he’s afraid and he is alone. But the court’s going to treat him like a man.
Investigator: 23:37 There’s one person seemingly, and you know better than I do because you know the intimate details. There was one person who really seemed to care about him, and here you are, and he’s not strong without you. And you know what he might do? He might say, “I shot them all.” He might say, “My daddy drove and I shot because I was the smallest and I could fit back there.” And what would happen if he says that is he most assuredly will be sentenced to death. And I can tell you something, you can take a kid who shot people in the head or maybe has watched people get shot for no reason, you can take a kid and teach him all of those tough, hard things, and he can do it. Just like in the war. He can kill men, he can cut their throats and not lose a wink of sleep about it. But when it comes time to die, when he’s wounded on the battlefield, when the game is over, when he’s facing death, he demonstrates loud and clear that he’s a boy playing a man’s game. You know why, John? Because that’s when they cry and that’s when they call for their mamas or their daddy.
Investigator: 25:15 When he’s in a man’s prison, it’s you he’s going to want. When he lies on that rack at night crying, it’s you he’s going to think about. He played a man’s game, but he’s a boy and he’s your boy. That’s got to touch you in your heart. He wasn’t with his mama or whoever his biological father was. He was with you. And you know something, John? This is harsh, but this is important. If you two are sentenced to death, I pray to God that they execute you before they execute him because I’m going to tell you something, John, he could be executed and you could receive a stay for whatever reason, and then you would sit in prison for the rest of your life with him going on ahead of you. And you know what? That might not be as bad. He’s 17 years old. Him spending the rest of his natural life in prison after you’ve made your peace with God, that could be the real hell for him.
Investigator: 26:21 If you love him the way I think you love him, if you love him the way I love my children, it will tear your soul away from you. You will live hell on earth. Save his life if you don’t do anything else. Do the right thing. Fix this thing. If you were on a sinking ship and there was one life jacket, I have no doubt in my mind that you would give it to Lee. You’re on a sinking ship now. Give that kid a life jacket. Give him an opportunity to save himself because he’s not going to do it unless you give him permission to do it because if it were me and my father, I wouldn’t do it unless he gave me permission and forced me to take that life jacket. You can force him to save himself, and in saving him, save yourself from the potential of hell on earth. Let’s just talk.
Tony Harris: 27:21 John Muhammad refused to talk. But one county to the north in Fairfax, investigators were having better luck with Malvo.
Brad Garrett: 27:31 Malvo was brought to Fairfax County Homicide at that point, which I was working with on the Linda Franklin case. My name is Brad Garrett, I’m a retired FBI agent, currently a crime and terrorism analyst.
Brad Garrett: 27:46 It certainly didn’t have the flavor to me or many others that this was some terrorist event. Nobody was taking credit, there didn’t seem to be any significance to the people that got shot. It seemed like they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mowing their yard, pumping gas. So it was hard to sort of imagine what the real motivation might be.
Brad Garrett: 28:11 Many shootings can be attributed to revenge, which may not actually be toward the people they are shooting. Some people call it displaced violence. Is that going on here? When Malvo was brought to Fairfax County Homicide, myself and a homicide detective by the name of June Boyle interviewed him roughly starting at 4:00 in the afternoon until about midnight.
Tom Walsh: 28:42 Courts are closing at 4:00, it really set up nicely for them. My name is Tom Walsh, partner at Petrovich and Walsh.
Mark Petrovich: 28:48 My name is Mark Petrovich, also a partner at Petrovich and Walsh. Tom and I were two of the members of the team that represented Lee Malvo in the DC Sniper case.
Mark Petrovich: 28:57 At the time in Maryland, you couldn’t execute juveniles for the crimes they committed, but you could in Virginia. So they took him out of federal custody up in Maryland and transferred him over to Fairfax County. In the course of transferring him over, he did get an attorney appointed to him because he was a juvenile. He was actually outside the building banging on the doors, trying to get in to meet with Lee before the police interrogated him, but he wasn’t allowed in and the interrogation took place.
Tom Walsh: 29:27 They knew they were dealing with a young kid that was indoctrinated. They were going to be able to get him to spill the beans and they were going to take advantage of it.
Tony Harris: 29:34 This is FBI agent Brad Garrett again.
Brad Garrett: 29:37 June and I walk into basically an office, but everything’s been removed except the desk and a couple of chairs. Malvo is smiling and it’s almost like he doesn’t have a care in the world, which told me that he felt like he’s in control, that he has all of the information and he has the power to either share it with us or not.
Brad Garrett: 29:59 June sat to his right and I sat in front of him. I don’t like talking to people from an angle because one of the keys in getting people to talk is being able to get them to look at you and communicate with you because despite the artificiality of interviewing somebody that’s potentially committed multiple murders, you still have to develop a relationship with them. So the first thing you typically always ask people is, how do they feel, how much have they slept, do they need anything, food, water, something to drink, et cetera. So we started talking a little bit about where he was raised and how did he end up in Antigua, and he gradually gave us pieces of information, but not a lot. So I’m sort of wracking my brain as to, how can I really get him to talk about something that he may care about or have an interest in?
Brad Garrett: 30:54 I’m not sure what got me to this point, but I started talking about movies. In 2002, there was a movie that had been out for a while called The Matrix, and I knew a lot of kids his age liked that movie, so I said, “Have you watched the movie The Matrix?” And up to this point, he has not made eye contact, he sort of looked over me or around me even though I was in front of him, and it was the first time he looked me in the eyes. I thought to myself, “Well, at least I can maybe get him to connect with me at this point. Let’s see how far this goes.”
Brad Garrett: 31:26 So we started talking about The Matrix and what the Matrix meant.
Matrix: 31:31 Do you want to know what it is? The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Brad Garrett: 31:43 After that discussion, June and I decided that we would sort of go, “You know why you’re here. We’d really like to talk to you about these shootings.” So what he basically did was, he sort of just talked about pieces of information that occurred at these things.
Tony Harris: 32:02 Here are Malvo’s lawyers, Mark Petrovich and Tom Walsh.
Mark Petrovich: 32:06 They got him talking, he admitted to some things, then they read him his Miranda Rights.
June Boyle: 32:15 So you’re still okay with everything, right? We’ve read you your rights, you’re fine to talk to us without an attorney. You still want to talk to us? You don’t mind talking to us?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 32:18 No, why?
Tom Walsh: 32:20 They can no longer do that. It’s now unconstitutional to conduct an interrogation that way, but at the time, it wasn’t. It’s what they called legally, the cat out of the bag.
Mark Petrovich: 32:29 And that was kind of a ploy. What they do is they get you talking and then after you say statements, they read your rights, and then they go back and confirm what you said before to now say, “Oh, well you’ve had your rights and he confirmed these things.”
Brad Garrett: 32:45 You had mentioned earlier that the gentleman in Manassas, you saw him drop, right? And you knew he was dead.
Lee Boyd Malvo: 32:47 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mark Petrovich: 32:49 It wasn’t illegal, and if you could see me, I guess I would air quote that. The way it was conducted wasn’t illegal, but had Todd Petit been able to get in, he would have advised Lee not to speak and they would not have gotten the interrogation, but there was none of that and the statement came out.
Tom Walsh: 33:06 It was damning.
Tony Harris: 33:11 The audio from the interview can be difficult to understand, and throughout it, Malvo laughed, made sound effects and responded to questions with short, abrupt answers.
June Boyle: 33:22 You had it all planned out ahead of time, so you knew each spot you were going to hit in Montgomery County the first day?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 33:24 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
June Boyle: 33:24 You started in the morning, the guy on his lawnmower, and in two hours time, you had four down. What happened if people walked by you?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 33:24 You’d go off in the bushes. You’d become part of the bushes. You go out in the grass and then become part of the grass. There’s a 50 yard fence-
June Boyle: 33:51 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lee Boyd Malvo: 33:51 I go over it in two seconds.
June Boyle: 33:51 After you shoot, you run and climb over the fence?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 33:51 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
June Boyle: 33:51 How can you run with the gun?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 33:59 It’s an AR, so I could [inaudible 00:33:59] it. It’s so easy to break down.
June Boyle: 33:59 So you shot and broke it down right after shooting and nobody sees you? And then, what? Put it in the bag, or?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 33:59 Put it in the bag. I’m not going to walk with it out in my hand. This is deception.
June Boyle: 33:59 Yeah.
Lee Boyd Malvo: 33:59 Snipers know what to do with their weapons. This is what keeps me alive. It’s one man going out there that defeats an army.
June Boyle: 33:59 Did you see the trooper?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 33:59 Mm-hmm (affirmative). I told you. I could have shot the trooper.
June Boyle: 33:59 Why didn’t you?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 34:01 Because it wasn’t [inaudible 00:34:01] yet.
June Boyle: 34:01 And you were going to keep going until you got the money?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 34:01 Until you listened.
June Boyle: 34:01 But at some point, you knew that we had to give you the $10 million?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 34:01 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
June Boyle: 34:01 Yes?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 34:01 Yes. You could try to catch me.
June Boyle: 34:01 So you knew that shooting all these people was going to affect the economy and that we were going to have to pay $10 million.
Lee Boyd Malvo: 34:01 That’s the whole plan. You have to affect two things. You have to affect the environment and you have to affect how they live, which is money. When you’ve got that, this is all he’s asking for? Give it to him. Give it to him.
June Boyle: 35:06 Did your targets matter? Whether it was male, female, or age?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 35:08 Nobody.
June Boyle: 35:17 Just [inaudible 00:35:18] that’s life.
Lee Boyd Malvo: 35:17 Yeah. Whoever I picked. I was just going out there shooting people.
June Boyle: 35:17 Did you ever feel bad about any certain one?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 35:17 No.
June Boyle: 35:23 If you had to do it, would you do the same thing? Huh?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 35:25 Yeah.
June Boyle: 35:26 If we hadn’t have caught you, you’d still be doing it?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 35:27 We had the resources to keep going.
June Boyle: 35:27 You did?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 35:27 Yeah.
June Boyle: 35:27 Where were you getting cash money?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 35:27 We planned for war before war.
June Boyle: 35:28 Was it your money or John’s money?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 35:49 It was our money. We don’t work in the city. This unity does not pay. That’s the essence of failure. [inaudible 00:35:49]
Lee Boyd Malvo: 35:49 They’ll never slip and let me go. If you let someone like this loose, are you out of your mind? I think they’re going to kill me.
June Boyle: 35:49 You think?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 35:49 Alabama, Louisiana, and Virginia.
June Boyle: 35:49 It doesn’t scare you?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 35:49 You want to hang me? Don’t care. Shock me? It’s going to last three minutes, five minutes? Three minutes, you’re dead.
Brad Garrett: 36:28 So we went through that, we got some pretty incriminating information. He did not give us all of the crimes that they committed, which clearly involved crimes in Louisiana and some other jurisdictions that we ultimately put together, but we felt like we at least had success because we got him to talk.
Tony Harris: 36:48 Malvo didn’t tell investigators about all of the shootings leading up to the spree in DC, but of the shootings they discussed, he said that he had been the gunman for all of them and that Muhammad hadn’t shot anyone. Here’s Malvo’s lawyer Tom Walsh again.
Tom Walsh: 37:03 He was still brainwashed at that time, so he was taking blame for all the shootings. He was basically trying to take everything on as a juvenile and save his leader, Muhammad.
Brad Garrett: 37:14 He was clearly protective of Muhammad, was trying to implicate Muhammad in a very minimal fashion. You could tell that there was some sort of close bond between the two of them. At the end of this interview, I said, “What was the motivation? Why did you guys do this?” And he looked at me and he says, “Well, it’s all about The Matrix.”
Brad Garrett: 37:38 Where should I go look to understand all this?
Lee Boyd Malvo: 37:43 Matrix.
Brad Garrett: 37:43 Really?
Brad Garrett: 37:52 And I said, “Well, what does that mean?”
Brad Garrett: 37:55 Is the answer in the movie?
Brad Garrett: 37:57 I mean, that doesn’t mean anything unless I know what you think The Matrix the movie means, and he just smiled.
Mark Petrovich: 38:06 Part of Muhammad’s indoctrination was to desensitize Lee to violence, to shootings, to the consequences of what happened.
Tom Walsh: 38:16 The Matrix and things of that nature were part of that indoctrination. Those were factors that needed to be explored.
Tony Harris: 38:22 What did Malvo mean when he said that the explanation for the shootings could be found in the movie The Matrix? Investigators wondered if Muhammad had been radicalized and was committing an act of terror out of hatred for America. And then there was the demand for $10 million to be deposited on a bank card. Could it really all be about money?
Tony Harris: 38:57 A day after Malvo’s interview with police, The Washington Post published an interview with John Muhammad’s ex-wife, Mildred. She had her own theory about John’s motivation for the crimes.
Interviewing Mi…: 39:09 Do you know why he came to the area?
Mildred Muhamma…: 39:12 He went to a Father’s Rights group, told them, I kidnapped the children. They did a skip trace on me, found me in the DC area and told him. He went to his best friend, Robert. He said, “I found Mildred. She’s in DC. I’m going to go get her. His best friend asked him, “Are you going to hurt her?” He didn’t say anything. The theory was he was killing innocent people to cover up my murder so he could come in as the grieving father, get custody of the children, and drive away. They probably would have named him father of the year for coming to get the children and raising them himself.
Mildred Muhamma…: 40:00 That best friend called the FBI and said, “I don’t know anything about your case, but you may want to look at John Allen Muhammad. His ex-wife is in the area and he may be there to hurt her.” And I talked to Robert, I said, “I am calling you to thank you for saving my life.” He said, “Mildred, let me tell you something, girl. John came there to kill you. I had to make a decision to call and report him or watch your name scroll under the TV that you’d been killed.” He said, “Mildred, I would pay anything to have a beer with John right now, that’s my boy. But I had to call them, so don’t get this twisted. Don’t believe that $10 million madness. He came there to kill you. Don’t ever get that twisted.”
Tony Harris: 41:01 Mildred Muhammad thinks the random string of shootings was designed to disguise her murder. If John had just killed her, he would be the primary suspect, but if it looked like she was just another random sniper victim, maybe he would have gotten away with it. Mildred says that even though that plan sounds crazy, it’s the sort of crazy plan that John would have come up with. After all, this was the same John who was ready to run away with Lindbergh, his son from his earlier marriage. The same John who kidnapped his kids from Mildred and took them all the way to Antigua.
Tony Harris: 41:38 Washington Post reporter Josh White says while it’s hard to ever definitively know the motivation for a crime, Mildred’s theory makes sense.
Josh White: 41:46 Mildred has talked about how she believes she was the target, and I think that’s plausible. All of those shootings create panic and get police occupied, and it would have been very hard to connect her shooting to anything else, just like it was very hard to connect any of these other people together. It would have gotten him custody of the children, it would have gotten the problem he saw out of the way. But that didn’t happen. Malvo has said that they parked outside where she was living.
Mildred Muhamma…: 42:16 October 11th, my coworker picked me up for work. She said, “You know, there’s a dark colored Caprice or Impala outside your door? And I just get a bad feeling from that car.” I said, “Girl, don’t worry about it, let’s just go to work.” So we pass by the car. The driver looks at us, but the passenger has a newspaper and he puts it up to cover his face, and I said, “Did you see that?” She said, “Yeah, I did.” I said, “Give me your phone, let me call the police.”
Mildred Muhamma…: 42:50 So I called the police, they said, “Okay, we’ll send someone out there.” Later, they told me, “John sent Lee to your door pretending to be a salesperson and his instructions were when you open the door to shoot you in the face. Ms. Muhammad, you opened the door, and for whatever reason, he walked away. We don’t know the repercussions he suffered because he didn’t kill you that day.”
Tony Harris: 43:32 Next time on Monster: DC Sniper.
Speaker 31: 43:36 It’s hard enough working one murder. To have these 13 shootings just in our area, let alone what else went around the country. We knew it was going to be a monumental task.
Tom Walsh: 43:47 Part of Muhammad’s indoctrination was to desensitize Lee to violence, to shootings.
Speaker 32: 43:53 There’s no amount of psychological coercion that would force somebody to, let’s say kill, if they didn’t already have some kind of predisposition.
Speaker 33: 44:04 I remember feeling just basically shock and disbelief that he could have done this. He just looked so innocent. How shocking.
Tom Walsh: 44:12 One of the most alarming moments was when Muhammad stood to represent himself. We had never heard from Muhammad at that point.
Paul LaRuffa: 44:21 Talk about weird events in your life. I was being questioned by the guy who tried to kill me.
Speaker 1: 44:33 Monster: DC Sniper is a 15 episode podcast hosted by Tony Harris and produced by iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV. Matt Frederick and Alex Williams are executive producers on behalf of iHeartRadio, alongside producers Trevor Young, Ben Kebrick, and Josh Thane. Ping Lindsey and Donald Albright are executive producers on behalf of Tenderfoot TV, alongside producers Meredith Steadman and Christina Dana. Original music is by Makeup and Vanity Set. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the first two seasons, Atlanta Monster and Monster: The Zodiac Killer. If you have questions or comments, email us at Monster@iHeartMedia.com. Or you can call us at 1-833-285-6667. Thanks for listening.