Mastermind of D.C. sniper attacks executed

John Allen Muham- mad maintained his innocence to the very end. John Allen Muham-
mad maintained his innocence to the
very end.
By Josh White and Maria Glod
Washington Post / November 11, 2009

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JARRATT, Va. - John Allen Muhammad, the sniper who kept the Washington region paralyzed by fear for three weeks as he and a young accomplice gunned down people at random, was executed last night by lethal injection.

Muhammad, a man who directed what many law enforcement officials consider one of the worst outbreaks of crime in the nation’s history, died in Virginia’s death chamber while relatives of his victims looked on. He and Jamaican immigrant Lee Boyd Malvo, then 17, killed 10 people in the Washington area during a terrifying October 2002 rampage; they also have been linked to shootings in several other states.

State authorities escorted Muhammad, in denim and flip-flops, into a small room at the Greensville Correctional Center and strapped him to a cross-shaped table. He was then injected with a series of lethal drugs beginning at 9:06 p.m. and he was pronounced dead at 9:11 p.m. Although he maintained his innocence to the very end, Muhammad, 48, ignored a request to make a final statement.

Larry Traylor, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, said last night that Muhammad requested a last meal but asked that details not be made public. Muhammad also declined to meet with a spiritual adviser, but he did spend time with immediate family members in his last few hours.

Muhammad showed no emotion in the death chamber.

Using a single .223-caliber sniper rifle and a modified Chevrolet sedan that authorities have called “a killing machine,’’ Muhammad and Malvo injected fear into the mundane tasks their victims were performing as they were hit: pumping gas, shopping, walking to school, mowing lawns, going to a restaurant. Malvo is serving a life sentence without parole.

The killings began with no explanation. Then the snipers left cryptic notes and phone messages demanding $10 million, just as millions of Washington area residents were distracted by white vans and other delusions that authorities were mistakenly chasing.

The shootings caused Washingtonians to change their daily rhythms. People zigzagged through parking lots and instructed their children to duck down in cars while at gas stations.

In the end, Muhammad and Malvo were tracked down because of a fingerprint left at an Alabama shooting referred to in one of the notes the snipers left behind. Investigators put that together with Muhammad’s purchase of the dark blue Chevy in New Jersey, a stolen Bushmaster rifle from Washington state, and an alert truck driver who noticed the Caprice at a highway rest stop in Maryland.

Law enforcement officials have not pinned down a solid motive for the shootings and cannot say for sure who specifically fired the fatal shots.

Muhammad’s former wife, who lived with his children in the Maryland suburbs, where many of the shootings occurred, has speculated that he did it to frighten, or even kill, her.

Prosecutors relied on untested Virginia terrorism laws that allowed them to seek convictions even if they couldn’t prove which of the two suspects fired the gun.

Muhammad was put to death for a single killing - the Oct. 9, 2002, sniper slaying of Dean Harold Meyers of Gaithersburg, Md., who was shot while he pumped gas outside Manassas.

Muhammad’s appellate attorneys long argued that their client was mentally ill and that he was incompetent to represent himself and perhaps even to stand trial.