Muhammad is executed for sniper killing

Local residents recall the terror of the Beltway sniper attacks at Seven Corners Shopping Center in Fairfax County, Va., where Linda Franklin, 47, was shot and killed in the Home Depot parking garage. Artifacts courtesy of the Newseum.
By Josh White and Maria Glod
Wednesday, November 11, 2009

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 Tuesday night by lethal injection.

Muhammad, a man who directed what many law enforcement officials consider one of the worst outbursts of crime in the nation's history, died in Virginia's death chamber while relatives of his victims looked on.

Unlike his victims, Muhammad knew when and how he was going to die. He and Jamaican immigrant Lee Boyd Malvo, then 17, killed 10 people in the Washington area during a terrifying rampage in October 2002; they also have been linked to shootings in several other states.

Virginia 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 Tuesday 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. When the curtain opened, his head was tilted to the right, and his eyes were closed. Asked whether he wanted to say anything, he did not respond.

"It's over. The whole long, sad process has ended," said Bob Meyers, whose brother, Dean H. Meyers, 53, was gunned down Oct. 9 at a Prince William County gas station. "There are no winners here. We are not celebrating. It was a sad day for everyone."

Bob Meyers and his wife, Lori, witnessed the execution along with about 20 other relatives of victims. He said the mood was somber as they watched Muhammad's final breaths.

"There is a certain bit of closure, but you never get full closure," Meyers said. "I think it was justice."

Muhammad's attorney, Jon Sheldon, who met with the sniper Tuesday and also witnessed the execution, said Muhammad did not want to take part in the rituals of the death penalty. "He had no interest in those things," Sheldon said, explaining why Muhammad did not speak and declined to make public his final meal.

Sheldon said Muhammad visited with one of his sons and remained convinced that the prosecution was a racist plot against him. But the lawyers steered conversation to other topics.

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.

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