Convicted D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad – senior partner in an unprecedented reign of terror that resulted in 19 shootings and 13 deaths last fall – will be executed, a jury determined this morning.
Jurors in Virginia Beach, Va., handed down the death sentence after finding the 42-year-old Army veteran guilty of capital murder, conspiracy and use of a firearm to commit a felony in the first of two trials over the Beltway sniper killings.
After six-and-a-half hours of deliberation, the jury concluded Muhammad used a rifle, a beat-up car and a teen-ager who idolized him to kill randomly and to terrorize the Washington, D.C., area last fall. The particular case centered on the death of Dean Harold Meyers at a Manassas, Va., gas station.
John Allen Muhammad
In determining whether to deliver the death penalty, jurors heard testimony from members of the Meyers family. At a press conference earlier today, Meyers’ brother called for the death penalty.
“I must say that I can’t think of too many more heinous crimes than this one,” Robert Meyers said.
Meyers told reporters that even a death sentence would not bring closure to his family’s ordeal.
“I would really doubt that full closure ever comes because there’s always an open wound remaining,” he said.
The victim’s nephew, Larry Meyers Jr., also expressed gratitude over the guilty verdict, but left the sentencing decision up to jurors.
“God put government in there to do that job, and we have the confidence in them to do it. We’re not pro-death penalty, but we’re not against it either. Whatever the verdict is, we’re going to be pretty happy with it, I’m sure,” Larry Meyers Jr. told Fox News.
Jurors also weighed evidence presented by prosecutors that Muhammad attempted to escape from the Prince William County Jail on March 23. Defense lawyers called the evidence flimsy.
Muhammad and his 18-year-old companion, Lee Boyd Malvo, each were accused of two capital murder counts – one alleging they killed more than one person in a three-year period and the other, filed under a post-9-11 anti-terrorism law that alleged they terrorized the Washington, D.C., area in the fall of 2002.
Muhammad was the first person tried under that new law.
Police have linked the two men to 19 shootings, which resulted in 13 deaths in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
The pair were also charged with extortion in regards to their solicitation of $10 million from the government.
John Lee Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo
Muhammad and Malvo were arrested Oct. 24, 2002 at a rest stop near Myersville, Md., about 45 miles northwest of the nation’s capital. They were found asleep inside the blue 1990 Chevy Caprice outfitted as a killing machine, with a hole in the car’s trunk to allow someone to shoot from it.
A Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle, a scope and a tripod were recovered from Muhammad’s car. Ballistics matched the rifle to that used in the 13 sniper shootings. Prosecutors earlier revealed Malvo’s fingerprints were on the rifle and during Muhammad’s trial presented no evidence that he had fired the weapon. Instead, they portrayed Muhammad as being the “captain of a killing team” who manipulated Malvo into carrying out the slayings.
Both Muhammad and Malvo were known to speak sympathetically about the men who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, but neither man was believed to be directly associated with any terrorists groups.
Muhammad is a member of Louis Farrakhan’s Muslim sect, the Nation of Islam, known for its belief that blacks eventually will rule in a new world free from the “white devils” created by an evil black scientist. The former John Allen Williams officially changed his surname to Muhammad on April 23, 2001.
Meanwhile, testimony is under way in Malvo’s trial in nearby Chesapeake, Va. He is charged in the Oct. 14, 2002, slaying of Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot store.
Malvo’s lawyers maintain he is innocent by reason of insanity because he was brainwashed by Muhammad, whom he looked up to as father figure. During opening arguments Thursday, lawyers showed jurors a photograph of Malvo holding a Bible and painted the picture of a young man who is a victim of his unhappy upbringing in Jamaica.
Prosecutors will present what they describe as overwhelming evidence against Malvo, including DNA and fingerprint evidence and a confession to police in which he allegedly bragged about the shootings, including the fatal shooting of Franklin.
John Malvo and John Muhammad
WorldNetDaily reported Malvo appeared to be a reluctant Muslim, slowly “pulled into the evil” that Muhammad planned, according to the chaplain of a homeless shelter in Washington state near the Canadian border where the two men stayed in the fall of 2001.
“My deepest sympathies for the boy,” said Ron Todd, a pastor at Lighthouse Mission. “But if he reached the point where, either out of fear or the thrill of the moment, he not only put his fingerprints on a clip but actually pulled the trigger, then he deserves the same that Muhammad is getting.”
Muhammad met Malvo on the Caribbean island of Antigua, where he had fled after abducting his three children from his ex-wife, Mildred Muhammad, March 27, 2000.
Malvo’s mother, Una James, was a customer of Muhammad’s business trafficking false passports and immigration visas, according to the Seattle Times. James used the false papers to enter Florida, intending to retrieve Malvo after she got settled.
In the meantime, the teen, left by himself, gravitated to Muhammad. Despite James’ subsequent efforts to take back her son, with the help of police, Malvo stayed with Muhammad until the two were caught.