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Police: Malvo says he, mentor shot 4 others

Officials probe attacks in Calif., Texas, Fla., La.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Authorities investigating four unsolved shootings around the country ranged from hopeful to skeptical over a report yesterday that Washington-area sniper Lee Boyd Malvo says he and his onetime mentor were responsible.

The four 2002 shootings, including three previously investigated for links to Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, were detailed in The Washington Post yesterday.

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, one in California and one in Texas, and wounded two others, in Florida and Louisiana.

The newspaper said the sources spoke on the 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 arrests, authorities in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, and Washington state linked 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.

William Brennan, a lawyer representing Malvo, did not return phone calls yesterday 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 Lieutenant Tommy Corkern said the department was in touch yesterday 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 yesterday 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 Tom Reedy, Denton County Sheriff's Department spokesman. He said investigators had 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.

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