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 judge determined this morning.
In November, jurors in Virginia Beach, Va., handed down the death sentence after finding the 43-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.
Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. could have reduced the sentence to life in prison without parole. He ordered Muhammad to be executed Oct. 14, but postponement is likely, due to appeals.
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
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.
Malvo will be formally sentenced tomorrow in Chesapeake, Va. He was given life in prison by the jury in that case.
Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush will not be able to alter the sentence because in Virginia judges have the option only of reducing a jury’s recommendation.
Muhammad’s defense attorney’s argued he should received the same sentence as Malvo because the teen actually pulled the trigger of his own will.
“It offends the Constitution to execute Muhammad and to save Malvo,” Muhammad’s lawyers wrote, according to the Associated Press. “No rational basis exists to distinguish Malvo from Muhammad.”
Police have linked Muhammad and Malvo 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.
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.