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Amid losses, sniper victim's family finds 'grace from God'

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 10, 2009; B01

The family of Dean H. Meyers, whose murder has sent convicted D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad headed toward Virginia's death chamber, is no stranger to tragedy.

Two years before Dean Meyers was gunned down Oct. 9, 2002, while pumping gas near Manassas, his brother, Bob, lost his first wife, Judy, in a car accident. The Easter after Dean was slain, his mother passed away. Then, in 2005, a nephew took his own life by jumping off a bridge in Delaware.

On Tuesday night, Bob Meyers and his wife, Lori, plan to represent the family as witnesses to Muhammad's execution by lethal injection in Virginia's Greensville Correctional Center, near Jarratt, south of Richmond.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Muhammad's request to stay the execution. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) can allow it to occur as scheduled, delay it or commute Muhammad's sentence.

"We just feel that it would be disloyal for our family to not be represented at the conclusion of the matter," Bob Meyers said Sunday by phone from his home in rural Perkiomenville, Pa., northwest of Philadelphia.

"We've been there all the way through," he said. "We feel like we need to be there. Out of loyalty, we're willing to do that, even though we're not expecting it to be an easy thing."

Muhammad, 48, was convicted and sentenced to death in the Meyers slaying. He was also convicted in Maryland in several other sniper killings, but the death sentence is based on the Meyers conviction.

Bob Meyers said his family feels an obligation to support families of other victims who might also attend. "None of us are really sure what it's going to be like or what it's going to do to us," he said.

In addition, he said, "our story . . . includes a lot more heartache and trauma than just Dean's death. There's been a lot else that has gone over the dam for us."

He said that with Dean gone, his mother's death was particularly hard. Dean had never married, and he and his mother had an especially close bond.

Dean Meyers was 53 and had lived in a townhouse in Gaithersburg for 25 years. He was a Vietnam veteran and had been severely wounded in battle. He worked for 20 years as a civil engineer in Manassas with the firm Dewberry & Davis LLC.

Although he had moved away to work in the Washington area, he often went home to the small Pennsylvania community where he grew up.

"For him not to be there and holding my mom's hand as her breath got shallower and shallower," Bob Meyers said, was wrenching.

Two years later, Larry Meyers Jr., 40, who had attended Muhammad's Virginia Beach murder trial and was the son of Dean and Bob's brother Larry, jumped off the St. Georges Bridge over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. He was having employment difficulties and had a wife and two children.

Through all the anguish, Bob Meyers said, his family has been sustained by its deep religious faith, by a dedication to Dean's memory and by a sense that good might somehow come from disaster.

"We have had plenty of trauma," Bob Meyers said. "But we also have had tremendous grace from God in our lives. . . . Through that, we've been able to forgive. We've been able to heal.

"In spite of it all, our lives are fulfilled," he said. "We are at peace."

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