Malvo still faces more death penalty trials

USA Today/December 25, 2003

Baton Rouge -- Lee Boyd Malvo escaped execution in Virginia for one of the Washington sniper killings, but prosecutors in other states want a crack at winning a death sentence against him, and his mentor, too.

A jury sentenced Lee Boyd Malvo to life without parole for one of the sniper killings. By Shawn Thew, AFP

A jury in Chesapeake, Va., sentenced Malvo, 18, to life without parole Tuesday for killing FBI analyst Linda Franklin. Last month, another jury in Virginia decided Malvo's partner in crime, John Allen Muhammad, 42, deserves the death penalty for the slaying of a man at a gas station.

Malvo and Muhammad have been linked to 20 shootings in all, including 13 deaths in Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Washington, D.C.

Both men are charged with murder in Baton Rouge in the September 2002 killing of Hong Im Ballenger, who was shot in the head as she left work at the beauty supply house she managed.

John Sinquefield, chief assistant district attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish, said neither Malvo's age - he was 17 at the time of the killing - nor the argument that Malvo was under Muhammad's sinister influence will deter him from seeking the death penalty in the Ballenger case.

"I haven't seen anything that would make me believe that he didn't know right from wrong at the time he committed the crime or that he was mentally deficient," Sinquefield said. He said he will also seek the death penalty for Muhammad.

Ballenger's husband, James Ballenger, said he opposes the death penalty for Malvo. "In prison, he might change, accept Jesus and be in heaven," he said. "Otherwise, he'll sign his own death warrant for hell."

But the Baton Rouge victim's sister, Kwang Im Szuska, condemned the Virginia jury's decision to spare the young man.

"There is no justice," she said. "As long as he is alive, I am fearful he will do it to someone. He could do it again in jail."

In Alabama, Muhammad and Malvo are charged with murder in a September 2002 shooting outside a Montgomery liquor store. The manager, Claudine Parker, 52, was killed, and a co-worker was seriously wounded.

District Attorney Ellen Brooks has said she intends to bring both men to Alabama for trial and will seek the death penalty against both.

In Maryland, the men are accused of killing Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera, who was gunned down outside a gas station. Prosecutor Doug Gansler told WBAL-TV that he would consult with family members before deciding how to proceed, but added: "They want to have their day in court."

Malvo would be ineligible for the death penalty in Maryland because of his age at the time of the crime. The death penalty could still be sought against Muhammad.

Both men are also charged with capital murder in the October 2002 shooting of Kenneth Bridges, 53, outside a gas station in Spotsylvania County, Va. The Spotsylvania County prosecutor has refused to say whether he will try Malvo and Muhammad.

Also, Malvo is charged with capital murder in the October 2002 slaying in Prince William County, Va., for which Muhammad was condemned to die.

Muhammad and Malvo are scheduled for arraignment May 3 in Baton Rouge, a proceeding that has already been postponed twice because of the Virginia cases. Sinquefield said he is willing to wait as long as it takes to get the two to trial in Baton Rouge.

"I don't care if it's seven years from now," the prosecutor said. "If I'm still around, they're going to be brought back and tried here in Baton Rouge for what they've done here."

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