KINGSTON, Jamaica – A man identified as the father of a 17-year-old arrested in the U.S. sniper shootings said his son was a "nice kid," though he hadn't seen him in four years and didn't know he was in the United States.
Leslie Malvo, a 55-year-old building contractor, said Thursday that his son moved away with his mother when he was 13, and he heard they had gone to another Caribbean island.
"He was a nice kid, so I don't know how he got mixed up in this," Malvo told The Associated Press at a street corner near his home in Kingston's working-class Waltham Park neighborhood.
John Lee Malvo, 17, was arrested with Army veteran John Allen Muhammad as they slept in a car at a rest stop in Frederick, Md.
A gun found in the car is linked to 11 of the 14 shootings perpetrated over three weeks, including 10 fatal and one in which no one was injured, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
"This morning I woke up and heard the news and I said 'That sounds like my son,'" Malvo said. Nevertheless, he was distant enough from his son that he could not say what school he attended before leaving Jamaica.
Jamaica's Foreign Affairs Ministry said a Lee Boyd Malvo is registered as 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 the 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.
There was media speculation that Muhammad and the 17-year-old may have met in Antigua, where the independent Observer Radio reported that Muhammad lived around 1999.
It quoted unidentified bank tellers saying Muhammad had a bank account on the island, which has been criticized by the United States as a tax haven with lax supervision.
It was not clear where Malvo's mother, Una James currently lives.
U.S. authorities said Malvo listed Muhammad as his father — apparently a stepfather — when he enrolled in high school in Bellingham, Wash., last year. There, he was registered as Lee Malvo.
Rohan Malvo, a 33-year-old cabinet maker and son of Leslie Malvo, remembered changing the diapers of his half-brother Lee in Waltham Park, where they lived as children.
"It was all right growing up in that part of Kingston. It's a rough neighborhood, but our father raised us right. He tried his best to put the food on the table. He was there for us," he said.
Waltham Park is a working-class neighborhood with concrete slab houses and some tin shacks, where stray dogs roam and children play tag on potholed streets.
Rohan Malvo said Lee was 5 or 6 years old when his mother moved from the neighborhood.
Police traced John Lee 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.
Classmates who remember 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."