Lee Boyd Malvo, one of a two-man sniper team that killed 10 people in 2002, testified yesterday that his former partner and mentor, John Allen Muhammad, had planned to "terrorize" the US with a month of shootings followed by bomb attacks on schools and hospitals.
Malvo, a Jamaican who was 17 at the time of the killing spree around Washington, said that Muhammad later planned to abduct his three children whom he had lost in a custody battle, but had refused to explain the purpose of the terror campaign.
"I said: `Why?' He didn't give me an answer," Malvo told a court in Montgomery County, Maryland, where the two men are being tried for a second time.
Both have already been convicted of one of the killings in Virginia, where Muhammad was sentenced to death and Malvo to life in prison. But Montgomery County authorities insisted on pursuing a separate trial to bring justice for the six victims killed there and in case the first conviction was overturned on appeal.
Malvo, now 21, has pleaded guilty to two of the shootings and agreed to testify against Muhammad, 45, for the first time. Dressed in a dark jacket and white shirt, he said the man he thought of as a father figure had outlined a plan in July 2002 for shooting six people a day at random for 30 days, and then planting home-made bombs in schools, school buses and children's hospitals.
"We're going to terrorize this nation," he recalled Muhammad telling him.
Malvo testified he was so upset after hearing the plan he came close to suicide, playing Russian roulette with a pistol as he sat in a bathtub in tears.
He described a relationship in which Muhammad had total control. The Gulf war veteran "basically took me under his wing," Malvo said, after the two met in May 2000.
"He began introducing me as his son," Malvo said.
When the prosecutor asked: "Did you come to love Mr Muhammad?" he said "Yes."