15 • THE JUDGEMENT
In 2019, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Lee Boyd Malvo’s case for a resentencing. But then a new law in Virginia changed everything. Will Malvo get parole? And should he be allowed to walk the streets again?
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.
Speaker 3 (00:22):
All right, the execution of John Allen Muhammad has been carried out under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Speaker 2 (00:28):
Speaker 3 (00:29):
Death was pronounced at 9:11 PM.
Speaker 2 (00:31):
Speaker 3 (00:33):
There were no complications. Mr. Muhammad was asked if he wished to make a last statement? He did not acknowledge this or make any statement whatsoever.
Speaker 2 (00:43):
Josh White (00:47):
It was certainly a moment of solace for a number of the victims families, and it ended the case as far as he was concerned, but again, we never really heard from him. We never really got a sense of anything from Muhammad. It sort of all came to pass rather quietly. In Malvo’s case, he is sitting in Red Onion Prison in Virginia. It’s one of the nation’s super maxes. It’s a very stark facility. He’s spending 23 hours a day in a very small cell. He has no physical interaction with any other inmates.
Mark Petrovich (01:24):
Yeah, he was sent down there and the problem was he was isolated for years. He’s not in general population because of notoriety, someone could try to make a name for themselves. Obviously, our goal is to do the best we can for him and what he wants, and you know what he wants, he wants to be out of prison and be able to live his life.
Lee Boyd Malvo (01:42):
I had dreams at one point. I wanted to do great things. This is not what I wanted for myself.
Mark Petrovich (01:51):
We’re going to have him soon back to us because of the rulings of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Speaker 4 (01:56):
After two separate trials, he was twice sentenced to life without parole, but then came a US Supreme Court decision declaring life without parole sentences for juveniles unconstitutional, and just last year the court said that ruling should apply retroactively to cases on appeal. Today, a federal judge in Virginia said because of those two rulings, Malvo must get new sentencing hearings.
Mark Petrovich (02:19):
Basically, it’s unconstitutional to automatically put a juvenile, now, in jail for the rest of his life without parole.
Josh White (02:26):
The issue here is not guilt. Juries will not be weighing in on whether or not he is responsible for the crimes. These would be re-sentencings that would revisit the time that he would spend behind bars.
Mark Petrovich (02:41):
A jury can recommend or a judge can impose a sentence other than a mandatory life sentence. They could give him something less, and maybe he’ll be able to get out of jail at some point in time in his life to at least be able to spend the rest of his life out of jail.
Speaker 5 (02:57):
Malvo’s sentence is being challenged and he will be re-sentenced at some point, and it won’t be life without parole, which means some day he will walk the streets again, and I’m convinced that’s going to happen.
Josh White (03:14):
There is a ruthless person on the loose.
Speaker 7 (03:17):
What unnerves this community the most is the randomness of the murders, ordinary people doing ordinary things.
Speaker 5 (03:25):
They killed the five people in one day and then went on the rampage for the next month.
Speaker 4 (03:30):
It is quite a mystery. The police say they have never had a crime quite like this.
Speaker 8 (03:35):
Be careful. These guys are using weapons that are going to go right straight through our Bulletproof vests.
Speaker 9 (03:43):
There’s a white van just went by with two guys in it.
From iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV, this is Monster: DC Sniper.
Since the time of Lee Boyd Malvo’s incarceration the laws about sentencing miners have shifted dramatically, so much so that a pathway now exists for Malvo to be granted parole and potentially walk the streets again. We’re going to quickly explain the cases which led to this point.
It all started with a landmark Supreme Court case in 2005 which ruled that juvenile offenders could not be sentenced to death. Next, in 2012 the Supreme Court ruled in the case, Miller versus Alabama that juvenile offenders couldn’t be given mandatory minimum sentences of life without the possibility of parole. After that ruling Malvo’s attorney submitted a petition to Virginia and Maryland to vacate his life sentences. They argued that because Malvo was sentenced to life without parole with no lower penalties available to the jury, his sentencing was no longer constitutionally valid, but the petitions were denied. However, in 2016 the Supreme Court weighed in again on sentences for minors.
Mark Petrovich (05:01):
Montgomery v. Louisiana was a 2016 case, and its language noted that not only does there have to be an alternative to a sentence of life without parole for a juvenile sentencing, the judge has to exercise some kind of discretion to determine whether or not the juvenile is incorrigible and whether or not that juvenile can eventually be reformed.
This is Mark Petrovich one of Malvo’s attorneys in Virginia. He says based on the Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling, Malvo had new grounds to appeal his sentences, and this time his appeal made it all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Mark Petrovich (05:45):
The goal is going to be to, if we can, reduce the sentence from a life in prison without parole. You want to go down any anywhere from there. You want to go down maybe for an opportunity for parole, then maybe a release when he’s in his sixties, whatever can be obtained. He’s going to want to have some time of freedom. How that’ll play out, we have no idea.
We asked Washington Post journalist Josh White what he thought could happen? Could Malvo actually get the re-sentencing he wanted?
Josh White (06:18):
Certainly, a jury in today’s world, all these years later could look at him, and evaluate him in where he is today and come up with a different outcome than they did before. It’s unclear to me that a jury would do that given the nature of the crimes, and how many victims there were and his own public statements about them. Juries are impossible to predict and how this would change anything is unclear. It’s certainly possible that he could get less time on one of these cases, but there are many, many other cases that still exist. I think the chances of him being released are low, but that’s why they go through these processes, and the determination that a minor should be given other possible outcomes than just life or death is something that the courts have decided is important, and I think they’ll carry that process out as far as it needs to go.
On October 16th, 2019 the Supreme Court heard Mathena vs Malvo. Here’s a recording from the hearing. Attorney Toby Heytens argued that Malvo’s sentencing must stand.
Chief Justice (07:30):
We’ll hear argument next in Mathena vs Malvo. Mr. Heytens?
Toby Heytens (07:35):
Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the court, 15 years ago Lee Malvo was tried, convicted and sentenced for his role in the DC sniper attacks. Almost a decade later, Malvo sought federal habeas relief relying exclusively on the new rule announced by this court in Miller versus Alabama, but Miller’s rule does not cover Malvo’s case and the lower courts erred in holding otherwise.
Among many other legal matters, Heytens asserted that the ruling in Miller versus Alabama applied only to mandatory sentences. He argued that the Virginia jury hearing Malvo’s case had two sentencing options, death or life without parole, and since some of Malvo’s sentences were not mandatory, he certainly could not retroactively apply the Miller ruling to undo those life sentences. One of Malvo’s attorneys, Danielle Spinelli, also spoke that day.
Danielle Spinelli (08:36):
Miller held that before imposing life without parole on a juvenile a sentencer must consider how the characteristics of youth counsel against that sentence. That individualized sentencing hearing, as Montgomery explained, effectuates the eighth amendment rule that life without parole is an excessive sentence for most juveniles, those who are not permanently incorrigible. Miller is not limited to mandatory schemes where life without parole is the only possible punishment. It invalidated those schemes because they guarantee that courts won’t consider whether youth warrants a lower sentence, which creates an unacceptable risk of excessive punishment, but when a court has the theoretical power to consider a lower sentence, but doesn’t do so, which is what happened here, it creates precisely the same risk.
Spinelli suggested that the language in Miller versus Alabama actually did apply to Malvo and is not limited to mandatory sentences. She explained how Miller requires that minors must be given an option less than life without parole, and since the courts did not offer Malvo anything less than that, his sentence is unconstitutional.
The entire hearing lasted just over an hour. When it was finished gallery members left the chamber and walked out into the rainy October afternoon. We attended the hearing and spoke with some of the observers outside the Supreme Court building.
I generally think everyone should have a parole chance. I don’t see what harm it does to like see if after a decade somebody can change. I think everyone probably has that capacity, especially like since the crime was committed at such a young age. There’s a lot of, there’s a lot of change, a lot of mellowing out that can happen in the years after.
You keep hearing in the news these days that children younger and younger are committing these horrific crimes, but I just feel like at that age, especially, he was under the influence of an older person and possibly not having the cognitive powers of thinking consequence longterm.
I think there’s a lot of anger still about the sniper shootings, especially in this area. I remember my parents telling me they would run from their car into Giant or Home Depot. I think it’s hard to look past anger and hurt, but I’ve worked with juveniles and I think he was manipulated. I don’t think he’ll ever get out, so it’s not about him, it’s about this applying retroactively to other juveniles who may have been manipulated or caught in a bad circumstance. I want them to have a chance to be rehabilitated and get out.
Most of the people we spoke to outside the Supreme Court made a similar point, that regardless of what you think about Malvo’s sentence, a ruling in his favor would impact countless juvenile offenders nationwide. If the court sided with Malvo, inmates who committed crimes as minors would be eligible for re-sentencing and could potentially be granted parole one day.
Steve Reba (11:53):
We end up always looking at these fantastic cases like Malvo. That’s not how most of these cases go down. Most of these cases are an armed robbery gone bad, a heavy trigger finger, stupid, stupid behavior that tragically results in a stupid, stupid outcome.
Steve Reba (12:12):
My name is Steve Reba. I’m the Clinical Director at the Appeal for Youth Clinic at Emory Law School where we represent kids who have been tried and convicted as adults. We take post-conviction action and go back and try to address their lengthy sentences. Most of them are life without parole sentences.
Reba says that most of the juvenile offenders he works with were sentenced by less tolerant courts from the eighties and nineties, and while those courts were supposed to help and support minors, they ended up focusing more on punishment.
Steve Reba (12:46):
We lost the idea in a sense of the rehabilitative juvenile system that’s civil in nature, not a criminal system, and we decided just to start putting all these youthful offenders into our adult system, giving them lengthy prison sentences, making them convicted felons. We still have the exact same laws in place, we’re still treating these children in our adult systems, and as with our criminal justice system in general, it’s discriminatory. It focuses on Black and Brown kids, and they are arrested at much higher rates, they are put through our criminal justice system at much higher rates, they are given larger sentences, and that’s what we’re still dealing with today.
Reba says Supreme Court cases starting with Roper versus Simmons in 2005 began to usher in more lenient sentences for minors. Reba’s Appeal for Youth Clinic has since overturned numerous lengthy sentences for juvenile offenders, but he says there’s one big challenge. In the language for many relevant Supreme Court rulings it was determined that minors must be sentenced based on two determining factors.
Steve Reba (13:52):
So is the juvenile, one, irreparably corrupt? Is the juvenile, two, permanently incorrigible? This is now sort of the lens in which we’re supposed to look at these offenders to decide if they’re quote – unquote “the rarest juveniles who deserve this sort of offense.”
What those terms mean exactly is not clear, but essentially incorrigible means incapable of being reformed or rehabilitated.
Steve Reba (14:19):
A lot of this focuses on brain science, right? The prefrontal cortex and how it develops. This is what controls whether you make rash decisions or not, and this develops in your early twenties. Literally, we have scientific evidence that these kids do not possess the same brain as an adult to control their behavior, and so if we are literally talking about a brain that is not developed, how can we treat these kids, how can we put the same level of culpability on them as we would an adult? That is really what is foundational or underlying the jurisprudence from the Supreme Court from 2005 on.
Reba says everyone in his line of work has been looking to see what happens with Mathena versus Malvo …
PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:15:04]
Speaker 10 (15:03):
… Work has been looking to see what happens with Mathena versus Malvo.
Speaker 11 (15:05):
The Malvo case will be very interesting. It’s really hard to imagine a series of crimes that are more brutal, but at the same time he’s doing it with someone he considers to be his father figure, right? I mean, it’s effectively his dad who’s telling him to do these things and you have this child who spent a good amount of time in foster care and just had really, really difficult childhood. You have both sides, you have a brutal crime, but also at the same time, this child who’s being led to do these things by an adult. The hope is, and I think one day we will get to the point where we recognize you cannot give a child a life without parole sentence period. This irreparably corrupt or permanently in cordial idea is just not something that’s applicable, but that’s not where we are now and that’s not the court we have right now so I don’t think that’s happening in Malvo’s case.
Speaker 10 (15:52):
And Reeba says the scale of Malvo’s crimes makes his case more complicated.
Speaker 11 (15:58):
I totally understand the continued anguish and the victims’ families being upset. That is completely natural and that is exactly where the pressures lie. If you have a contingency of the victim’s family who are vocal and against it and politically active, judges who are elected and prosecutors who are elected are going to take notice of that. It’s just not the right approach to whether we should be imposing these life without parole sentences. The right approach is clearly that we just need to ban life without parole sentences. It’s the easiest thing to do. Most of these states have parole systems. They can leave it up to these parole systems and these individuals who it’s their job to determine whether these inmates should be released to determine whether they should be released.
Speaker 11 (16:47):
There’s nothing that says if you get a life sentence that has the possibility of parole that you’ll ever be released, it’s the possibility of parole. If someone really is irreparably corrupt and permanently incorrigible, our parole system should be competent enough to know that person is those things and not release him or her.
Speaker 11 (17:07):
I’m not so sure that he won’t get out at some point. He may not, but there’s a really important component to being in prison, and it’s called hope. And the idea that you’re working towards something, you’re trying to achieve something, there is a light however dim and however distant at the end of the tunnel, those are really important things when you’ve been locked up.
Speaker 10 (17:31):
This production team, numerous activist groups and hundreds of incarcerated juvenile offenders across the nation were anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in the Malvo case. But then back in February of this year, something unexpected happened.
Speaker 12 (17:49):
Breaking news from the State Capitol, the DC sniper, Lee Boyd Malvo will not be re-sentenced after a new Virginia law just signed by governor Ralph Northam, the law states minors can be considered for parole after serving 20 years of their life sentence.
Speaker 10 (18:05):
On February 24th, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill into law, effectively ending the sentence of life without parole for juvenile offenders. As a result, Lee Boyd Malvo will be eligible for parole in 2022. As a result of the new Virginia law, Malvo no longer needs a resentencing in Virginia and so his Supreme Court case was dismissed. Here are two of Malvo’s attorneys, Tom Walsh and Mark Petrovich.
Speaker 13 (18:54):
My review of the law is that it’s fairly straightforward. Any juvenile who is sentenced and has served a period of 20 years incarceration is eligible. The keyword there is eligible, eligible for consideration for being released on parole. That doesn’t mean that they get released after 20 years. That doesn’t mean that there’s any kind of automatic process. It just means that they’re eligible to be considered for release on parole. The exact parameters of how the new parole scheme and the review process will specifically be applied, I think, are still to be determined. The one thing to be mindful of with regard to Lee is he also faces sentences in Maryland, so we don’t know how their process will work, but if he even receives parole in Virginia, that’s not necessarily the end of his incarceration. He may still need to face time in Maryland.
Speaker 14 (19:54):
Lee has six life sentences in Maryland and he has four in Virginia, so if he was able to be paroled of Virginia, he would go to Maryland then and then proceed that. I know just reading some articles that Maryland is also attacking its sentencing procedures for juveniles, so we’ll see how that turns out.
Speaker 10 (20:13):
This development has caused an uproar amongst those closest to this story. Whether Malvo should be given parole is a deeply polarizing question.
David Reichenbaugh (20:25):
I don’t know if he was ever properly diagnosed, but as far as I’m concerned, he was a psychopathic cold blooded killer that can never walk the street again.
Speaker 10 (20:34):
This is retired Maryland state police, Lieutenant David Reichenbaugh.
David Reichenbaugh (20:38):
No one could even think about ever letting this guy out in the public. Been around a long time, I’ve arrested a lot of people, but this is one of those people that you just know looking at him, this guy isn’t done killing if he gets the chance.
David Reichenbaugh (20:53):
I know that was part of the defense that Muhammad had him under his thumb. Initially, Malvo, he was just under the influence of Muhammad. Maybe he did initially, but I don’t buy that for a minute. If you look at his story and his story from his date of birth forward, okay, yeah, I feel sorry, he was a kid that didn’t have much of a chance growing up, but that didn’t make him a cold blooded killer. He was a cold blooded killer and Muhammad may have enhanced that and gave him the ability to kill through obtaining those weapons, believe that. But hey, 14 times in our area alone, and I think they were credited with over 17 killings throughout their spree across the country, that’s not a brainwashed kid. That’s killer. That’s all that kid will ever be, nothing but a cold blooded killer that should be kept in a cage the rest of his life.
Speaker 10 (21:55):
But some people still believe that Malvo was a victim, that he committed his crimes while under the influence of John Muhammad.
Melissa Moore (22:03):
Most people, when they think of the DC sniper case, they think of the horrific random shootings in the DC area. A lot of people don’t understand that there’s a story that started many years ago and actually the very first victim was Mildred. The second victim, I believe, was Lee Malvo.
Speaker 10 (22:23):
This is Melissa Moore host of the podcast, Happy Face. That show is about how Moore survived her father, Keith Hunter Jesperson, the man who came to be known as the happy face serial killer, more also hosted the lifetime docu-series Monster and my Family. For that program, she interviewed numerous high profile killers including Lee Boyd Malvo.
Melissa Moore (22:47):
So when I talk to serial killers or mass killers, they’re always sorry that they got caught. This is not the case for Lee Malvo. and I can sense it that when he talked about the victims to me, he was breaking down, and it wasn’t crocodile tears. I have heard crocodile tears. My dad has even called his murders a lapse of judgment, and killers will do that, they will dismiss and minimize what they did. Not, Lee. When I asked him like, what would you say to the victims? He was hesitant to even say anything because there’s nothing he could say that could ever justify or redeem anything he did.
Speaker 10 (23:31):
Malvo expressed similar feelings in a 2012 interview with Washington Post journalist Josh White.
Lee Malvo (23:39):
I am sorry. I am sorry. I mean there is no way to express that. I mean what am I going to tell him? I’m sorry I murdered your own child? I’m sorry I killed your husband? I’m sorry I murdered your wife? What do I tell child who was waiting for his father to come home and dad never showed up?
Melissa Moore (23:59):
When I was interviewing him, he didn’t hit on any of the major things that I look for with a psychopath, which are former animal abuse, blaming other people, thinking that they’re above other people, that they’re grandiose, that they’re superior. He didn’t delight in talking about the crimes. That is something unusual. So when I interviewed like the BTK killer, he could give a false sense of, well I don’t want to hurt the victim’s families anymore by sharing this, but then in the next line he would say something contradictory to that. With Lee, that wasn’t the case.
Lee Malvo (24:38):
I mean, I was a monster. If you look up the definition, I mean, that’s what a monster is. I was a ghoul. I was a thief. I stole people’s lives. I did someone else’s bidding just because they said so. I mean, that is the definition of a monster.
Melissa Moore (24:53):
I do believe that he should be released. I do believe that he wouldn’t be a threat to society. I believe this because of speaking to him and knowing that this wasn’t a thought process on his own. This was ingrained in him. He was conditioned. He was brainwashed to become a cold, violent killer. And if he had therapy, if he had treatment, the proper resources, which I don’t believe he’s probably getting in prison, then I believe he would actually be an asset.
Lee Malvo (25:28):
As far as would I ever [inaudible 00:25:30] 30, or 40, or 50 years from now if I were to be on the street, would I ever kill or would I … No, I wouldn’t do that. But as I said, in learning to be with myself and forgive myself, there are different layers. I mean, something like this, you can’t tackle all of it at the same time. There’s either going to be a nervous breakdown or suicide. You go with it incrementally, piece by piece.
Speaker 10 (25:55):
But some say that even if Malvo could be rehabilitated and thus deemed safe to walk the streets, that still serves little justice for the people he killed.
Anthony Meoli (26:05):
As it relates legally, remorse to me for killing six people doesn’t really play into parole.
Speaker 10 (26:15):
This is psychologist Anthony Meoli. He worked with Malvo to coauthor his autobiography.
Anthony Meoli (26:21):
It doesn’t take away from the fact that eight people at least will never be brought back because they cannot, they’re dead from his hands and his hands only, not John’s. And regardless of what level of remorse he has, he needs to be held accountable for what he did. And for me, life without parole is the correct sentence whether he was seven, 17, or 70. It still doesn’t take away the fact of what he did. And there are many people, and I mean many people in prison, who are serving life without parole for far less. And just because he’s 117 days short of his 18th birthday doesn’t bring back eight people.
Speaker 10 (27:10):
Here’s one of the individuals whose life will never be the same, Ola Martin Cooksley, the sister of James Martin, who was shot on killed on October 2nd, 2002.
Ola Martin (27:22):
At the time I was thinking, “Well, he should be locked up forever and ever”. I would like to see whether or not he’s really changed or whatever. I mean, I forgive him because while I didn’t forgive him, it just tore up my own soul and forgiving him gives me peace so that whatever he does, if he does get out someday or if he gets a lesser sentence or something someday, I am not going to feel bitter about it, or angry about it or anything because I’ve forgiven him and I know that Jim would have wanted me to forgive him.
Speaker 10 (28:05):
Here’s the perspective of Paul LaRuffa. He was shot on September 5th, 2002.
Paul LaRuffa (28:11):
If I didn’t forgive him, then I would feel the anger that I felt at the time, and I did feel angry when he was caught, “Jeez, let me get my hands on him,” a lot of anger, but if I didn’t forgive him, I feel that today. And I don’t feel that today. And I haven’t felt that for years. He hasn’t ruined my life. And that part of forgiveness is that it just lets you go on with your life. So yeah, I can say I’ve forgiven him, but it doesn’t mean what he did was okay with me. I think he’s responsible for what he did. I don’t think he was brainwashed to the extent that he didn’t know right from wrong. He knew, absolutely knew, that killing people wasn’t a good thing to do and wasn’t a right thing. There’s no question in my mind that he knew that, but I do believe he was brainwashed, for lack of a better term. I do believe he was under Muhammad’s control.
Paul LaRuffa (29:14):
You can’t deny psychologically that there was something to this whole thing. I mean, this kid was abandoned. He was on his own from the timing was very young. He was on the streets on his own. There’s no doubt that this kid, from a very early point, was not in the best circumstances to be mentally stable. So I believe that’s true. Now, the only time I really heard him speak was a reporter from the Washington Post did an interview with them, then you can hear his voice and you can hear him say that he was a monster. He understands what happened, and I think he does.
Lee Malvo (29:56):
I didn’t have a personality to begin with. When I say that, there were no stable roots. I was unsure-
PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:30:04]
Lee Boyd Malvo (30:03):
There were no stable roots. I was unsure of myself. He gave me something to latch onto and controlled it. It’s hard to explain, but that’s just what happened. The only time I actually broke was on two occasions. The first one was when he asked me to shoot the pregnant lady, and I couldn’t do it. The second time was when there was a lull in the shooting for six days, and we just had an argument. He kicked me out the car, and told me to go about my business, and then came back about three hours later to pick me up. I was still sitting in the same spot. I was a nervous wreck then.
Speaker 15 (30:40):
I get the feeling he feels he has to pay a price for it. I think the argument is, how long a price? That’s my question. Has he paid enough of a price? I don’t think so. Might he get out someday? I’m convinced he will, but I don’t know when that time is. I don’t think it’s now. I don’t know how much of that he would agree with. I get the feeling he agrees he has to pay a price, but I don’t know if he thinks he’s already paid it enough or not. I don’t know the answer to that, but I’d like to ask him that.
Speaker 16 (31:16):
Since going to prison, Lee Boyd Malvo has expressed remorse for his actions in an outreach to victims and their families. In a 2012 interview with Washington Post journalist, Josh White, Malvo said he was haunted by two specific memories.
Lee Boyd Malvo (31:33):
The first one is Mr. Franklin’s eyes. They’re penetrating. It is the worst sort of pain I’ve ever seen in my life, his eyes. Words do not possess the depth in which to fully convey that emotion and what I felt when I saw it. You feel like the worst piece of scum on the planet. The second is Conrad Johnson’s mother. When I was being sentenced in Maryland and she had the opportunity to speak. For me, at that point in time… Certainly, that’s the very first time the immediacy of how my actions, my ignorant actions, affected the lives of others. That’s the first time it really registered. None of the victims or the surviving loved ones had ever had the opportunity to really confront me.
Speaker 16 (32:28):
Eventually, Malvo decided to start reaching out to his victims.
John Gaeta (32:33):
The local police… They went to the Red Onion Prison and they interviewed Lee Boyd Malvo. He admitted to shooting a man in Hammond, and he thought that I had died.
Speaker 16 (32:47):
This is John Gaeta, the victim shot in Hammond, Louisiana on October 1st, 2002. He says that about eight years after he was shot, he received an apology letter from Malvo.
John Gaeta (33:00):
Sunday, February 21st, 2010. “Mr. Gaeta, I am truly sorry for the pain I caused you and your loved ones. I was relieved to hear that you suffered no paralyzing injuries and that you are alive. Sincerely, Lee Boyd Malvo.” Then he signed it. It just kind of confirmed what we kind of knew. I’m grateful that he sent an apology. I would have sent something back, but a lot of people advised against it. They just said, “Well, just let it lie.” I appreciate that he did that. I believe in forgiveness because that’s what the good Lord taught us, and that’s what we should do. Otherwise, we would be saying the large prayer in vain.
Speaker 16 (33:44):
There are two ways to look at Malvo’s actions from prison. Is it possible he has truly unwound himself from his past and is looking for some degree of genuine redemption? Or, is it more likely that Malvo has been working to create a redemption narrative in hopes of getting out of prison someday? In 2012, Malvo gave an interview where he shared new information. He suggested that he had been sexually abused by John Muhammad. That revelation came as a shock to many, including the coauthor of his autobiography, Anthony Meoli.
Anthony Meoli (34:24):
The first inkling I got of that was right around 2012, I believe. Now, here’s a man who wrote his entire diary. Nowhere in any chapter I have, nor amended chapters, because he did amend some of the things to change things, nor in any of the conversations I had, nor in any of the emails I had, nor in any private letter did I have, nor on the interview I had with him for 66 minutes that he could have said anything he wanted, did he talk about sexual abuse, ever.
Speaker 16 (34:54):
It is possible that Muhammad really did sexually abuse Malvo, and Malvo just didn’t want to bring it up with Meoli. It is common for survivors of abuse to feel shame and stay silent about it for years. Malvo’s story would be even more confusing and tragic if that were the case, but Meoli is afraid that it is all maybe just a ploy for sympathy.
Anthony Meoli (35:19):
I have been writing, emailing, speaking to inmates on the phone, and visiting them for a quarter century. I can tell you, just like almost every human being, at the end of the day, if you have an opportunity to have a better slice at life for yourself, chances are you’ll take it. I’d never put it past any inmate. I have to sometimes look at myself in the mirror about this. Hey, am I being used for their own personal goal? which is to tell their story for whatever purpose it isn’t. It’s something that have to be wary of. In this particular case, it’s ripe for that.
Speaker 16 (36:03):
Meoli says that Malvo might want to use people to rewrite his story, to paint him as a more stable and normal person, a person more worthy of freedom. It’s impossible to know Lee Boyd Malvo’s true intentions. Late last month, he added another chapter to his story.
Speaker 17 (36:24):
The man serving a life sentence in prison for his role in the 2002 sniper spree that terrorized Washington D.C. is now a married man.
Speaker 16 (36:34):
On March 6th, Lee Boyd Malvo married Sable Noel Knapp at a small ceremony inside Red Onion State Prison. Knapp is a social activist and granddaughter of Bill Knapp, a prominent real estate developer in Iowa. We reached out to Knapp for comment, but received no reply. Malvo’s marriage to Sable Knapp suggests that he intends to build a life beyond his prison confines and that if he were released, he might have some sort of support system in place. That’s something a parole board might view favorably and perhaps, it’s something that Malvo thinks could increase his chances of getting parole.
Lee Boyd Malvo (37:29):
I had dreams at one point. I wanted to do great things. I had a lot of friends who thought, “You’re going to be known someday,” but no one would think… not for this. Not for this, because when I set my mind to something, I always had a one point of focus. I mean, there were days I was going to school, I had nit for two days. I didn’t complain to my classmates. I went to school, took the same test they did, and did the best I could. I sat by the street lights when my landlord kicked me out and turned the light off. I did everything I could, and my best failed. In life, it works out like that sometimes.
Lee Boyd Malvo (38:11):
We would like to think that we’re logical, but if you sit for 10 minutes and look at your thought process, it’s random feelings and thoughts about different things you’ve seen, and heard, read, and witnessed. We’re not logical. We’re moved by our deepest sentiments. Then for most part, we think about and rationalize later. I mean, look at the world we living in today. Most people move off that feeling, that sentiment, what we feel, whether it’s wittingly or unwittingly, whether we know or we don’t know, whether it’s conscious or it’s an unconscious drive. That’s what we’re going to act on.
Speaker 16 (38:48):
Whatever happens with Malvo, his earliest chance of parole is in 2022. At that point, 20 years will have passed since he was arrested. That means nearly 20 years since the attacks that paralyzed the nation.
Garrett Graff (39:04):
The way that we live our daily lives now, we are a much more fearful people.
Speaker 16 (39:11):
This is journalist and historian, Garrett Graff. He says that while the D.C. attacks did come to an end, the impact has lingered on.
Garrett Graff (39:20):
Now we see these videos, for instance, of a motorcycle backfiring in Times Square, and everybody runs for their life. The terror threat has shifted from these large scale attacks carried out by international groups like Al-Qaida, like 9/11, and is much more about almost unpreventable attacks on daily life. Mass shootings at schools, at churches, at movie theaters, these small scale attacks that are utterly devastating, thanks to the firepower of assault weapons, and that have become just part of daily life in America in a way that was unrecognizable or would be unrecognizable to the America before Columbine and before 9/11.
Speaker 16 (40:21):
Graff says that the D.C. sniper shootings were one of the first of these new types of terror attacks.
Garrett Graff (40:29):
This was not a mass shooting in the way that we think of mass shootings, but I think it was a big change in the way that people sort of thought about their safety in public space.
Speaker 16 (40:39):
Graff also wonders why, when we look back on the early 2000s, the D.C. sniper story is often forgotten or overlooked.
Garrett Graff (40:49):
It gets lost for a couple of different reasons. I mean, one, the suspects and the motive end up being just sort of weird. There was no real political motive attached to it. It wasn’t part of the terror threat that we traditionally thought about at the time in terms of Islamic extremism. Then the sad truth of it is for as many people who were killed and injured back then by the D.C. sniper, mass shootings are such a regular part of American life now that it just gets lost in a casualty toll of unthinkable proportions in the years since.
Speaker 16 (41:33):
While that may be true for the general public, many people directly impacted by the case will never forget. The life of every person involved in the D.C. sniper attacks was changed forever. Each of those individuals deals with that trauma differently.
Ola Martin Cooksley (41:53):
At first, I hated for anybody to say it was God’s will. “Oh, it was God’s will,” because it just did not resonate with me. How could it have been God’s will? It was not God’s will.
Speaker 16 (42:04):
This is Ola Martin Cooksley again, sister of sniper victim, James Martin.
Ola Martin Cooksley (42:10):
I still don’t think it was God’s will, but I think that people can override God’s will sometimes. I know that I will see Jim again someday. The older I get, the closer I know I’m getting to that day. I look at it more like something that happened. It changed me. It broke me, but it’s not something I struggle against at the very thought. I mean, I don’t scream at God or anything anymore like I did right at first. I don’t think there’s ever actually closure because you always wonder why. Why did this happen? Why? Why Him? A little boy born in St. Louis… He ends up in a grocery store parking lot in Wheaton, Maryland. What could have happened that could have kept him from being there? and that kind of thing. It’s not really closure. I am at peace.
Speaker 16 (43:08):
Ola says it’s impossible to completely escape the memories, but she’s learned how to turn those experiences into positive changes.
Ola Martin Cooksley (43:17):
My grandchildren and I have all marched in marches for gun reform, and gun laws, and things. We continue to do that. Even though some of my grandchildren never met Jim, they still feel passionate about it. That makes me feel very good too, that we can march and we can say what we think about… that gun shouldn’t be on the street or anything. Yes, especially that kind of gun that was a Bushmaster, which he should never have had. Nobody should have that kind of a gun for anything.
Speaker 16 (43:51):
Not long after the D.C. attacks, family members of eight of the victims sued Bushmaster Firearms and Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply where the rifle was stolen from. At the time, Bull’s Eye owner, Brian Borgelt, said he never knew the gun was missing. An ATF investigation discovered that the store could not account for over 200 missing guns and revoked Borgelt’s license to sell firearms. The lawsuit with Bushmaster was settled out of court with Bushmaster paying $2.5 million split between the victims’ families. Sonia Wills, the mother of victim, Conrad Johnson, spoke to WTOP News after the settlement and said, quote, “I think a message was delivered that you should be responsible and accountable for the actions of irresponsible people when you make these guns and put them in their hands.” While some got involved in activism, others decided to write books after this story was over. None was more controversial than the book by Charles Moose, the chief of police…
PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [00:45:04]
Speaker 18 (45:03):
More controversial than the book by Charles moose, the chief of police for Montgomery County at the time of the DC shootings. Moose accepted a hefty book deal shortly after the attacks, but Moose was criticized for attempting to profit from his work as a public officer. The Montgomery County ethics commission initially rejected an exemption for Moose saying it’s prohibited for employees to, “Use the prestige of office for private gain.” Moose published his book anyway, but he ultimately resigned as chief of police and moved to Hawaii to work as a beat cop. Another person to write about his experience was the officer in charge of the take down, now retired Maryland state police Lieutenant David Reichenbaugh. After retiring, he wrote the book In Pursuit: The Hunt for the Beltway Snipers.
Speaker 19 (45:53):
I wrote the book primarily because I felt that the true story had to be captured as to how we got him. We all came together and we were cooperating and working with each other like never before. The FBI, ATF, Montgomery County, Baltimore city police department, metropolitan police department. And of course when you work together, you break bread together, you maybe drink a beer together, you get to know each other and all of a sudden you’re no longer competitors, you’re comrades. Hey, I got your back you got mine, which is the way it’s supposed to be. Those were 1000 highly dedicated police officers that give a damn and if there’s anything that the public needs to take out of this is your cops, whether they’re your local police department, your state or your federal 99.9% of us care. We care about you, we care about protecting you and that’s what it’s all about.
Speaker 18 (46:54):
Mildred Muhammad now works as a professional public speaker. She talks to audiences around the world about surviving domestic abuse.
Speaker 20 (47:02):
As a once victim who became a survivor and now I am a warrior on the issues of domestic abuse and violence, I have found that it is important to reach back to help others, men and women who feel that the relationship that they are in is abusive. 80% of victims do not have physical scars to prove that they are victims. Although 20% do, I choose to concentrate on the 80% and it is my mission to shift the thinking of society to understand that you do not have to have physical scars to be a victim or a survivor of domestic violence.
Speaker 18 (47:54):
In the coming weeks Monster will feature a bonus episode about Mildred Muhammad and her message to victims around the world. Meanwhile, Lee Boyd Malveaux remains behind bars at Red Onion State Penitentiary. As mentioned, he will be eligible for parole in Virginia in 2022. Malveaux has not given a public interview since 2012 however, this team has reached down to Malveaux and will continue to do so. Finally, the surviving victims continue to live on including John Gayda, the victim shot in Hammond, Louisiana in 2002.
Speaker 21 (48:38):
When I did go back to work, I found like a prayer that I really took to heart. Just appreciating everything about life. You take for granted so many things. Even grass just looked amazing to me it’s just like it had a new meaning. The blades of grass were just beautiful. I mean I just couldn’t believe I had been shot and I was still alive. I just think that the miracle that my life was spared and that there must have been a reason for sparing me. We’re prayerful and christian, so we especially pray for the families who did lose loved ones.
Speaker 18 (49:24):
One of the people to lose a loved one was Nelson Rivera, whose wife, Lori Ann Lewis- Rivera was shot and killed on October 3rd, 2002.
Speaker 22 (49:35):
My life changed completely. After 17 years it never goes away. Never goes away. Now I’m a little bit better but I always think about her all the time. How my life will be now if she was still here. Just thanks to God Jocelin grew up and now she’s 20, I just hope the best for her because that’s what her mom wants. I have pictures, I have some clothes, I have her wedding dress. I keep it with me until when Jocelin get married if she want to wear it.
Speaker 24 (50:25):
Something like that that happens to you you’ll never forget it.
Speaker 18 (50:38):
Here’s Paula Rufa again the victim shot on September 5th, 2002.
Speaker 24 (50:43):
I’ve always said you’re never over it, over it in the sense that, well it was nothing I barely remember what happened, it was like tripping on the sidewalk it was just nothing. That’s just never going to happen. It doesn’t haunt me and it doesn’t affect me negatively. I like to think that it affected me positively. People say all the time well, live for today you never know, you could be dead tomorrow. I experienced it where it could have ended in a split second. So that’s something positive that you think about that you know it can end any time so you do make it affect how you act. You try to act maybe differently than you did before. I’ve gone on with my life and enjoy life and it just hasn’t affected me negatively. That’s a good thing.
Speaker 18 (51:37):
The Rufas says the anniversary of the shooting is a special day every year.
Speaker 24 (51:42):
On September 5th my brother calls me at 10:15 at night to celebrate my survival because he’s the more outgoing about things. My two sisters and my other brother are more in the area of they don’t like to talk about it because they think it hurts me and it hurts them to talk about it. But my other brother is more understanding of where I am. So my wife and I have a toast and my youngest brother calls me and we celebrate the fact, not that I got shot at that moment, but that I lived. And so he calls me and says, “Glad you’re alive.” And I say thanks. And we talked for a few minutes and that is emotional.
Speaker 18 (52:49):
The stories of these survivors are just a few of the thousands of stories surrounding the DC sniper saga. While making this podcast, it seemed like nearly everyone we spoke to had some story or connection to the case. Whether they lived in the DC area at the time and remember having to pump gas from behind a blue tarp or knew someone who was affected by the shootings. This was a story that impacted the DC area and an entire nation in chilling ways. And as we’re seeing today, the aftereffects continue to influence the daily lives and uncertain futures of countless others. We also learned over the course of producing this podcast that the lives of these killers are complex as well. There are so many factors involved in their actions, but I make sure to never lose sight of the fact that the consequences of their actions are devastating for victims and their loved ones.
Speaker 18 (53:50):
We are curious people perhaps morbidly, so we want to know more about the people who kill and why they do it. We call them monsters I think because we can’t come up with another term that captures our shock, fear and outrage at their actions. As a journalist, I will continue to try to explain the seemingly unexplainable. And I’ll continue to ask you to consider all the factors that go into building a life, breaking a life and destroying a life. Maybe when we understand these complexities better, we can create a world with a little more empathy, a world that’s hopefully free of monsters. I’m Tony Harris and this is Monster, DC sniper
Speaker 25 (54:50):
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 Kuebrich and Josh Thane. Payne Lindsey and Donald Albright our executive producers on behalf of Tenderfoot TV alongside producers, Meredith Stedman 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.
Speaker 26 (55:44):
Monster, DC sniper does not end with today’s finale. Be on the lookout for upcoming bonus episodes, including an intimate discussion with the ex wife of the DC sniper, Mildred Muhammad. In the meantime, if you missed anything this season, we encourage you to go back and re listen to earlier episodes of the show. Your reviews make us better, so please leave your feedback on Monster DC sniper. Then if you would, tell your friends to go find Monster DC sniper and subscribe now. All episodes are available on the iHeartRadio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.