“Mr. Franklin’s eyes.”
Malvo remembers being in the blue Chevrolet Caprice, in which police found binoculars and walkie-talkies. He scanned the area to make sure John Allen Muhammad had a clean shot. He gave the “go” order and looked across Route 50 in Seven Corners at the target. Muhammad, hidden on a hill above, pulled the trigger. A bullet screamed across the highway, instantly killing Linda Franklin, who just happened to be going about her business at the Home Depot in Virginia at precisely the wrong time.
But mostly he remembers Ted Franklin’s eyes — the devastation, the shock, the sadness. “They are penetrating,” Malvo said in a rare media interview from prison. “It is the worst sort of pain I have ever seen in my life. His eyes. . . . Words do not possess the depth in which to fully convey that emotion and what I felt when I saw it. . . . You feel like the worst piece of scum on the planet.” (Related: Sniper shootings, 10 years later, haunt those it touched)
Malvo’s attitude provides a sharp contrast to his posture 10 years ago. Shortly after his arrest, a boastful, defiant Malvo told investigators that he fired the bullet that killed Franklin. He laughed and pointed to his head to show where the bullet struck. Told about Malvo’s words, one of those investigators said he wouldn’t be surprised if Muhammad fired the fatal shot and thinks Malvo might be coming to grips with what he did.
It has been 10 years since Malvo and Muhammad went on one of the most notorious killing sprees in the nation’s history. Over 21 days in October 2002, the pair ambushed 13 unsuspecting strangers, killing 10 of them, in the Washington area. They succeeded in terrorizing the region, as death could come anywhere, anytime: in gas stations and parking lots. They even shot and wounded a 13-year-old standing in front of a middle school. Sporting events were canceled. People cowered behind tarps as they filled their cars with gas. Parents kept their children home. After the two were caught, they were tied to at least 11 more shootings from Washington state to Alabama, five of them fatal.
Muhammad is gone — executed in 2009 for his crimes. Malvo, the scrawny teenager, the cold-blooded accomplice, is now 27.
His killer stare seems to have softened. He speaks with animation and poise, and with an adult perspective on what he did. He claims to understand the enormity of his actions — the trail of death and loss and pain he left behind — and believes that but for Muhammad, he might have accomplished something in life.
“I was a monster,” Malvo said. “If you look up the definition, that’s what a monster is. I was a ghoul. I was a thief. I stole people’s lives. I did someone else’s bidding just because they said so. . . . There is no rhyme or reason or sense.”
Retired FBI agent Brad Garrett, who helped question Malvo in 2002, said he’s not surprised by what Malvo is saying in 2012.