COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Authorities investigating four unsolved shootings around the country ranged from hopeful to skeptical over a report Friday that Washington-area sniper Lee Boyd Malvo says he and his one-time mentor were responsible.
The four 2002 shootings, including three previously investigated for possible links to Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, were detailed in The Washington Post on Friday.
Citing two people familiar with the case, the Post said Malvo told authorities this spring that months before the October 2002 sniper spree, he and Muhammad killed two men in California and Texas and wounded two others in Florida and Louisiana.
The newspaper said the sources spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
Albert Michalczyk, 76, of Oro Valley, Ariz., said the news answered his suspicions about who shot him on a Clearwater, Fla., golf course May 18, 2002.
"My wife immediately thought it was these guys," said Michalczyk, who was struck in the upper chest by a bullet that police could not recover. "We put two and two together, but we never came up with four. Now, we are coming up with four."
Clearwater police said they will investigate the new report, but spokesman Wayne Shelor noted that the department previously worked with the Washington-area sniper task force in hopes of solving the case.
"We have no evidence at all connecting our case to those," Shelor said.
The four victims were: Michalczyk; a man killed in Los Angeles during a robbery that February or March; a man shot to death May 27 while doing yard work in Denton, Texas; and John Gaeta, 54, who survived an Aug. 1 robbery and shooting outside a shopping mall in Hammond, La., near Baton Rouge.
Muhammad and Malvo were tied to 10 murders and three woundings in the Washington area during a three-week period in October 2002. After their arrest, authorities in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana and Washington state were able to link the pair to shootings in those states.
Both were convicted in 2003 for sniper shootings in Virginia; Muhammad, 45, was sentenced to death and Malvo, 21, was given life in prison.
Last month, a Maryland judge sentenced Muhammad to six life terms after he was convicted of six murders in Montgomery County, where the October spree began and ended. Malvo testified against Muhammad and agreed to plead guilty to the same six Maryland murders.
Malvo attorney William Brennan did not return phone calls Friday seeking comment. State's Attorney Douglas Gansler of Montgomery County, where last month's trial was held, declined to comment.
Malvo has made conflicting statements in the past about the sniper shootings and acknowledged that when he was arrested he lied about details such as who was the triggerman in various shootings. But when he testified against Muhammad, Malvo insisted he was telling the truth.
Hammond police Lt. Tommy Corkern said the department was in touch Friday with the FBI in New Orleans, trying to verify Malvo's statements in the shooting of Gaeta. If that happens, police will take the case to prosecutors.
"We plan to bring charges as soon as we can," he said.
Gaeta said Friday that he was shot after two men approached him as he was fixing a car tire that had been slashed.
"I said, 'What are you doing?' He lifted up the gun and shot me. Once I saw the weapon, my concentration was on that. And on dying. I thought, 'Is this how it's going to end?"' Gaeta said. The bullet struck his neck and the shooter stole his wallet.
Gaeta could not positively identify his assailant, but like Michalczyk, he hopes charges are filed in his shooting.
The Texas case "had all the earmarks of a random shooting" with a high-powered rifle, but tests on bullet fragments were inconclusive, said Denton County Sheriff's Department spokesman Tom Reedy. He said investigators have previously looked into whether Malvo and Muhammad were responsible.
"We haven't been officially contacted by any law enforcement agency, so at this point in time this is strictly hypothetical," Reedy said.
The FBI's Los Angeles office was researching the claim of a Los Angeles shooting, spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. City police referred inquiries to the federal agency.