Prosecutor: Juvenile's fingerprints only ones on sniper rifle
Judge appoints counsel for Muhammad
FAIRFAX, Virginia (CNN) -- John Lee Malvo's fingerprints were the only ones found on the Bushmaster .223 rifle police say was used in the D.C.-area sniper shootings, according to the Fairfax County prosecutor who will try the 17-year-old Jamaican.
A juvenile court judge ordered Malvo held in an adult detention facility pending the start of his trial for the October 14 killing of Linda Franklin, 47, an FBI analyst who was gunned down outside a Home Depot in Falls Church.
The judge found probable cause to suspect Malvo's guilt when Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Horan told him about the fingerprints and said witnesses had seen Malvo at the scenes of three of the shootings.
"The analysis on the rifle showed his [fingerprints] and no other," Horan said after Friday's hearing.
The next hearing in Malvo's case has been set for early December. Horan has pledged to seek the death penalty for the juvenile.
"Even if you don't believe in capital punishment, the legislature has said that capital punishment is available for certain crimes. If this one doesn't qualify, none of them should qualify," he told reporters.
Malvo's attorney Michael Arif cautioned the news media not to jump to conclusions about the alleged fingerprints found on the rifle.
"The fingerprints don't mean anything," he said.
Just a few miles away and a few hours earlier, the Virginia prosecutor who will bring fellow sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad to trial for the killing of Dean Harold Meyers on October 9, said that his case is likely to include evidence from "most all" of the shootings blamed on Muhammad and his alleged juvenile accomplice.
That task will apparently get a boost from a laptop computer found in the suspects' car after their October 24 capture -- law enforcement sources told CNN Friday that the computer's hard drive contained information they said "lays out a blueprint" for the shootings.
Muhammad appeared before Prince William Circuit Court Judge Herman A. Whisenant Friday morning to formalize the transfer from federal custody in Maryland to state custody in Virginia. Whisenant set his next appearance for Wednesday, at which time a defense attorney is to be appointed.
Speaking after Muhammad's first court appearance since he was transferred Thursday to state custody in Virginia, Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert would not comment on any evidence he plans to submit, but said he hopes the trial will begin in earnest "within a year."
"In my experience, a case of this nature takes a lot of preparation," he said. "Defense counsel will have a lot of motions. Undoubtedly we'll have a lot of appearances before it comes to trial."
Ebert said he intends to seek the death penalty if Muhammad is convicted.
Muhammad has been charged with two counts of capital murder, including one while committing an act of terrorism, one count of conspiracy to commit murder and one count of using a firearm for intimidation, all stemming from the shooting of Meyers at a Manassas gas station.
Malvo has also been charged in Prince William County, but he will stand trial first in Fairfax County.
Both Muhammad and Malvo have been charged or linked to a string of shootings in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana between Sept. 5 and their capture on October 24.
But the intense run of 13 shootings -- 10 of them fatal -- in three weeks in the D.C. area launched the intense investigation that eventually led to the arrests of Malvo and Muhammad and the linked them to the other shootings.
"One thing about this case [is] the tentacles go throughout the country," Ebert said. "What happened elsewhere may be very material in this case. I suspect you'll see evidence of crimes not only in this jurisdiction but elsewhere."
"I anticipate that most all these murders will play a part, either in the guilt phase or the sentencing phase if he is convicted," the prosecutor said.
Ebert said he expects Muhammad's defense attorneys to seek a change of venue, particularly because Prince William County residents could be considered victims of the "terrorism" included in one of the murder charges.
"I think the test will be if they can put that aside and render their verdict solely on what they hear in the courtroom," he said.
Ebert also said he expects a challenge to the statute that includes the terrorism tie since it is a new and untested Virginia law.
Law enforcement officials across the country are now revisiting unsolved cases to determine if any of them can be linked to the sniper suspects.
On Thursday, Georgia became the latest state to link the two to a killing, but officials there have not filed charges. Muhammad and Malvo have also been charged with killings in Montgomery, Alabama, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and officials have linked the two to a September 5 shooting in Maryland in which the laptop computer found in their car was stolen.