Only Malvo's fingerprints found on rifle


November 9, 2002 

FAIRFAX, Va. - Seventeen-year-old John Lee Malvo's fingerprints were the only ones found on the rifle believed used in the sniper attacks, a prosecutor said Friday as authorities linked another Maryland shooting to the two suspects.

Nearly a month before last month's deadly spree began in the Washington area, a man was shot six times at close range as he locked up his restaurant in suburban Clinton, Md. Paul LaRuffa, 55, survived.

"We're confident we have a match between the shooting on Sept. 5 and the snipers," said Capt. Andy Ellis of the Prince George's County Police Department. He refused to discuss evidence.

LaRuffa's assailant took his laptop computer. Authorities have confirmed his laptop computer was found in the suspects' car when they were arrested.

"The fact I was shot is mind-boggling, and the fact that it is linked is even more unbelievable to me," LaRuffa said Friday.

He said he is glad the sniper suspects are being prosecuted and added he's recovering "really well" from his wounds.

Malvo and John Allen Muhammad have now been accused of shooting 19 people, killing 13 of them, in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Two other shootings, in Tacoma, are under investigation.

Federal authorities have given Virginia prosecutors the first trial against the suspects, saying the state has the best chance of obtaining the death penalty. No trial has been scheduled.

At the teenager's initial court appearance in Virginia, Fairfax County Prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. said witnesses had spotted Malvo at three of the fatal crime scenes. The teen was ordered held without bail.

A few miles away, Muhammad, 41, made his first appearance in a Virginia court and a judge said he would appoint a lawyer for him.

Last week, Horan said without elaborating that there was "an equal possibility" either Malvo or Muhammad gunned down FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot on Oct. 14 in Fairfax. Malvo is charged in that case.

Horan would not discuss evidence in detail, but he said after the hearing that only Malvo's fingerprints were found on the .223-caliber Bushmaster XM15 semiautomatic rifle authorities believe was used in the killing spree. The gun was found in the men's car after their arrest Oct. 24.

Malvo's court-appointed attorney, Michael Arif, dismissed the importance of the fingerprints. He said Malvo, who faces two counts of capital murder and a firearms charge, will plead not guilty.

Arif complained that police questioned Malvo for nearly eight hours Thursday without a lawyer present. He said he would ask a judge to toss out any inappropriate statements Malvo may have made.

"I'm not at all comfortable with a 17-year-old being in police custody for that long without representation," he said.

Horan said FBI agents are trying to find Malvo's mother, whom they believe now lives in Bellingham.

The prosecutor said Malvo tried to escape shortly after being taken into custody by crawling up into the ceiling at a Baltimore lockup. His escape was foiled when he fell through the ceiling tiles into a nearby office.

Malvo will be held in an adult jail until a Dec. 5 hearing.

In adjacent Prince William County, Muhammad was formally charged with killing Dean Meyers as he pumped gas at a Manassas, Va., gas station Oct. 9. Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. asked Muhammad if he wanted a court-appointed lawyer.

"I thought I already had counsel," Muhammad replied, referring to a lawyer appointed earlier by a federal court.

The judge explained that Muhammad didn't have a lawyer to face the Virginia charges and again asked him if he wanted one appointed. Muhammad responded, "I don't know what to say, sir."

The judge appointed defense attorney Peter Greenspun, who later declined to comment on the case.

"I've been representing him for all of six hours," he said. "I have nothing to say."

Muhammad's public defender in Maryland, James Wyda, denounced the federal government's decision to move him to Virginia, calling it "clumsy, macabre forum-hopping for the cheapest and easiest way to obtain the death penalty."

Some of the shootings occurred in Prince George's County, Md., in the same town where Muhammad's ex-wife, Mildred, lived with her sister. Mildred Muhammad had fled there from Washington state because she feared her ex-husband would hurt her, according to court documents.

Associated Press writers Matthew Barakat and Stephen Manning contributed to this story.

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