A 17-Year-Old's Strange Life

A 17-year-old arrested as one of two suspects in the Washington-area sniper shootings left Jamaica in his early teens and moved to another Caribbean island before migrating to the United States, his father and Jamaican officials said Thursday.

John Lee Malvo, 17, was arrested with Army veteran John Allen Muhammad as they slept at a roadside rest stop near Frederick, Md. Police say the two are the suspects in a three-week series of sniper attacks in the suburban Washington D.C. area that left 10 people dead.

"This morning I woke up and heard the news and I said 'That sounds like my son,"' said Leslie Malvo, 55, a building contractor in Kingston, Jamaica.

"He was a nice kid so I don't know how he got mixed up in this," he told The Associated Press at a street corner near his home in the city's central Waltham Park neighborhood.

Jamaica's Foreign Affairs Ministry said a Lee Boyd Malvo is registered as having been born in Kingston on Feb. 18, 1985, to Una James and Leslie Samuel Malvo, and a Lee Malvo attended high school in Jamaica before emigrating to another Caribbean island in 1998 at age of 13.

"Local school records show no evidence of disruptive behavior and point to the attainment of an academic standard that was satisfactory," a statement from the ministry said.

Leslie Malvo said he last saw his son in 1998.

There were local media reports that John Lee Malvo and Allen may have met in Antigua, where the local Observer Radio reported that Allen lived around 1999. It quoted unidentified tellers saying Allen had a bank account on the island, which has been criticized by the United States for lax supervision in a tax-free haven.

U.S. authorities said Malvo listed Allen as his father — apparently a stepfather — when he enrolled in high school in Bellingham, Wash., last year.

Rohan Malvo, a 33-year-old cabinet maker and son of Leslie Malvo, remembered changing the diapers of a half brother he called "Lee."

"Somebody saw a photograph of him today and said we resemble each other," he told the AP in Waltham Park, where they lived when they were children. It's a working-class neighborhood with concrete slab houses and some tin shacks, where stray dogs roam and children play on potholed streets.

He said Lee Malvo was 5 or 6 years old when his mother moved from the neighborhood.

Police traced Malvo to a house in Tacoma, Wash. that was searched Wednesday. He had been living in the house with Muhammad, a source told the AP.

A senior law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said police believe Malvo became like an informal stepson to Muhammad because Muhammad had a relationship with the boy's mother and for a period of time the three lived in a familial type arrangement.

"The boy eventually latched onto Muhammad. We don't have evidence it was formalized but it was almost like an informal or common-law stepson," the source said.

Malvo attended high school in Bellingham last year. Police Chief Randy Carroll said his force had known about Malvo since December 2001, when the high school reported the youth arrived at the school without transcripts or other papers.

At one point, he lived with Muhammad at the Lighthouse Mission, a homeless shelter, Carroll said.

Malvo's fingerprints were found at a murder-robbery in Alabama, and ultimately helped lead authorities to Muhammad. Police got a good look at the young gunman and recovered a partial fingerprint -- Malvo's.

Classmates who remember Lee Malvo from a three-month attendance at Bellingham High School said he was studious, polite and well-dressed — but did not make any friends.

"He would speak up and he would tell his opinion. You don't get that from many high school students," said Chrissie Greenawalt, who went to a writing class with Malvo. "I thought that was cool."

On Thursday, Malvo was arraigned in court in Maryland. Malvo is considered by the court to be a juvenile, and all of his proceedings are closed. Police said he was being held as a material witness.
  • Sue Chan

Comments