SEATTLE – The mother of teenage sniper suspect John Lee Malvo has been ordered deported to Jamaica, an Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesman said Wednesday.
An immigration judge signed the order Tuesday after Una James, 38, dropped battered spouse claims that were part of a petition she made to seek special protection in the United States, INS spokesman Garrison Courtney said.
However, Courtney said a federal judge could block the deportation if another agency — namely, the Justice Department — wanted to keep her in the country. James is considered a likely witness in the sniper cases.
John Hartingh, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle, said he had heard of no such plans. James' lawyers would not comment, citing confidentiality rules.
The INS decision was first reported by The Seattle Times.
Malvo, 17, and John Allen Muhammad, 41, are suspected in the shootings of 18 people in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana. Their arrest at a rest stop in Maryland last month ended a three-week shooting spree in the Washington area that left 10 people dead.
Both men are charged with capital murder.
James and Malvo moved from Jamaica to Antigua in 1998. Investigators believe it was there that Malvo met Muhammad, who had taken three of his children to live with him on Antigua after losing a custody battle with his second wife in Tacoma, Wash.
James initially told Border Patrol and immigration agents she and Malvo were smuggled into the United States aboard a cargo ship.
Reports following the arrest of Malvo and Muhammad, however, indicate she bought false identification papers from Muhammad and entered the country in late 2000 while her son remained in Antigua with Muhammad.
Malvo came to the United States two months later, bearing a passport that identified him as Muhammad's son, according to Antiguan officials.
He joined his mother in Fort Myers, Fla., but ran away in October 2001 to join Muhammad in Bellingham, Wash., where they lived at a homeless shelter as father and son.
In December, James asked Bellingham police to help her get her son back. During the investigation, police said Malvo's comments indicated he and his mother were in the country illegally and officers summoned the Border Patrol, which arrested the mother and son and then released them on $1,500 bail.
Investigators believe Malvo almost immediately rejoined Muhammad and the killing spree began soon afterward.