Relatives of Victims Relieved by Malvo Verdict

Sonia Wills was on her way home from planting a Christmas tree at her son's grave Thursday when her husband called with the news that Lee Boyd Malvo (search) had been convicted of capital murder.

"I said 'Thank God! He's going to get what he deserved,"' said Wills, mother of sniper shooting victim Conrad Johnson. "I think now I can really enjoy Christmas."

Relatives of people Malvo is accused of killing during and before last year's sniper spree were relieved jurors didn't accept the defense argument that Malvo was insane at the time because fellow sniper John Allen Muhammad (search) brainwashed him. Malvo was equally guilty and should be given no extra mercy, many said.

"He was just as responsible," said Muhammad Rashid, who said he saw Malvo moments before he was shot Sept. 15 outside a Brandywine liquor store. "There is no chance I have any forgiveness for him."

Malvo, now 18, was convicted of two counts of capital murder for the Oct. 14, 2002, shooting of Linda Franklin at a Home Depot parking lot in Falls Church, Va. He faces a possible death sentence.

Muhammad, 42, the man Malvo often called "Dad," was convicted last month in another of the sniper shootings, which left 10 people dead and terrorized the Washington, D.C., area for three weeks in October 2002. The jury recommended that Muhammad be sentenced to death.

Franklin's daughter, Katrina Hannum, cried after the verdict, while others in the courtroom patted each other on the shoulders.

Charles Moose (search), the former Montgomery County police chief who led the sniper task force, told WBAL-TV in Baltimore that the verdicts brought some closure for those in law enforcement, but not for the victims' families.

"Their lives are changed forever," Moose said.

Kwang Im Szuszka, sister of Hong Im Ballenger, who was killed in a September 2002 robbery in Baton Rouge, La., said on television the verdict was "my new Christmas present" and that Malvo got what he deserved.

Paul J. LaRuffa, a Clinton restaurateur who was wounded Sept. 5, 2002, said he was "tremendously, tremendously relieved" by the verdict.

"The longer the jury takes, the more worried I got that one or two or more people were going to believe he was insane and not responsible for his actions. I'm glad they came to the conclusion it wasn't true," he said.

Marion Lewis, father of Lori Lewis-Rivera, who was killed Oct. 3 in Kensington, Md., said he never believed Malvo was so brainwashed by Muhammad that he had no free will.

"If he claims his own will was not strong enough to let Muhammad manipulate him, he's either a liar or a fool who doesn't deserve to live," Lewis said.

Rashid said he still suffers searing pain and vivid flashbacks from the shooting, which pierced his abdomen. He has a hard time keeping food down, and is scheduled for more surgery in a couple of weeks.

"We victims have tried our best to lead a regular life, but there is always pain," he said. "Think of how many families, how many lives he Malvo ruined."

Wills said it doesn't matter to her if Malvo is executed or given a life sentence — either way, he will never be free again.

"He's dead already," she said.