Chesapeake, Va. -- Just a few weeks ago, jurors listened intently to a tape of Lee Boyd Malvo laughing and boasting about shooting FBI analyst Linda Franklin and others during last fall's sniper shootings. "I can hit you in the head from the car or I can hit you in the head from outside," he said on the tape.
But during the past couple of days, the same jurors have been hearing a wildly different story. Through a battery of mental health experts hired by his lawyers, Malvo claimed he was only sitting in the passenger seat or watching from outside the car when his partner John Allen Muhammad climbed into the trunk of their Chevrolet Caprice and gunned down unsuspecting victims.
Was Malvo lying to investigators or to the psychiatrists? Those jurors will soon have to sort through the two versions as they weigh Malvo's responsibility for last fall's sniper rampage, which killed 10 people and wounded three others in the Washington region.
Fairfax County, Va., prosecutors believe Malvo, 18, was the triggerman in many of the sniper slayings, based on his first statements to police, and they are seeking the death penalty on murder charges related to Franklin's slaying on Oct. 14, 2002.
Malvo's lawyers are arguing that the then-17-year-old was temporarily insane because of indoctrination by Muhammad, and they ended their case with three mental health experts who all testified that Malvo suffered from a mental disease, dissociative disorder, at the time of the shootings.
Malvo also told defense psychiatrist Neil Blumberg that Muhammad had planned to shoot "three to five children" outside the Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, Md., where 13-year-old Iran Brown was shot, and that Muhammad had checked out three schools as possible targets.
Malvo said he and Muhammad camped out in the woods near Tasker the night before the shooting and they also slept in the Aspen Hill, Md., woods near where Conrad Johnson was shot on Oct. 22, 2002, Blumberg testified. Malvo said Muhammad informed him that morning that Malvo would be taking his first shot that day, Blumberg said.
But Blumberg stood firm with his diagnosis of Malvo on Thursday in the face of withering cross-examination by Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Horan who asked whether Malvo suffered from dissociative disorder when he provided his new version of the killings. Blumberg said yes.
"So based on your definition, he is insane when he's talking to you?" Horan asked. Blumberg said Malvo was still suffering from the disorder, which he described as a psychological numbness and a loss of identity.
"Can you be a little bit dissociative?" Horan asked after Blumberg told him the disorder developed "on a continuum." Blumberg said one could have symptoms and not have the disorder.
Blumberg testified, as mental health experts Dewey Cornell and Diane Schetky did earlier in the week, that Malvo volunteered that he committed both the final sniper killing of Johnson and the February 2002 slaying of Keenya Cook in Tacoma, Wash.