Deep feelings grip families after verdict

Victims' relatives express emotions from relief to anger over shootings

The Baltimore Sun/December 18, 2003
By Lynn Anderson

Marion Lewis, whose daughter Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera was shot and killed at a Kensington gas station more than a year ago, said Thursday that he stayed away from the Lee Boyd Malvo trial for his own good.

"To be frank, I didn't want to end up in jail," said Lewis, 51, from his home in Mountain Home, Idaho. "When you catch someone with blood on his hands, don't waste our time. Get a rope."

For Lewis, Thursday's conviction of Malvo stoked feelings of revenge. But others who lost loved ones last year as Malvo and his partner, John Allen Muhammad, terrorized the Washington area felt a measure of relief.

With Thursday's verdict, both Malvo and Muhammad have been found guilty.

"This is like an early Christmas present to me," said Kwang Szuszka, whose sister, Hong Im Ballenger, 45, was shot and killed in a robbery in Baton Rouge, La., in September last year. "I miss my sister so much. I have no other family here. I am alone. The tears, they come and come."

Ballenger's husband, James Ballenger III of Baton Rouge, said that he had forgiven Malvo and that he wanted the teen-ager to spend the rest of his life in prison.

"I want him to get life in prison so he can be counseled and I can visit him and tell him that Jesus loves him and that I love him," Ballenger said. "If you believe in the Bible, you have to believe what God says, and God says to forgive. They won't kill anyone else."

The cousin of Pascal Charlot, who was shot in the chest on a street in Washington, said that like Malvo, he was raised in a Caribbean culture where corporal punishment for children was the norm. Malvo's attorneys had argued that the defendant had been beaten as a boy. But Charles August Charlot said physical abuse isn't an excuse to kill, and he is glad the jury rejected the insanity defense.

"At some point, you know what you are doing," said Charlot, who lives in suburban Washington. "I don't want anyone thinking he was forced to do this."

Charlot said he hopes Malvo is sentenced to life in prison so he has to suffer as his victims did.

"What he did to all the families, to that 13-year-old kid, I would be happier if he's locked in jail for life," Charlot said, referring to the boy who was shot outside a school in Bowie.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan was at his son's basketball game at Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda when he learned of the verdict: A county employee called him on his cellular phone. Duncan said he passed the news to other parents in the stands.

"Everyone agreed it was the right decision," he said.

Later, Duncan said that he often thinks of the victims' families. "My hope is that this verdict will give the families some comfort," he said. "I think they will sleep a little bit better tonight."

Duncan said that he is hoping for a death sentence for Malvo. "We are almost at the end here," he said. "I have always wanted justice. We have it with the Muhammad case. We need the right sentence for Malvo. If that happens, I would like to see the sentence carried out."

For others, the final chapter won't come until they watch the killers' execution. Lewis, 51, whose 25-year-old daughter was killed, is one of those.

"I'd like to look in their eyes when they die," he said.

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