Mildred Muhammad, ex-wife of John Allen Muhammad, the man convicted for a series of sniper attacks in the Washington, D.C.-area, remembers a pivotal moment during the investigation into the killings of 10 victims before his arrest.
As she recounted for NPR's Michel Martin, host of Tell Me More program, during Muhammad's first national broadcast interview, on October 23, 2002 she had been taken by federal agents from her suburban home to a a downtown Washington office for questioning. Unbeknownst to her, her former spouse was had by that time become the main suspect in that months shootings.
She recalled an FBI agent walking into the room and saying:
"Miss Muhammad, we just have to tell you, we're going to name your ex-husband as the sniper."
Michel asked about her reaction at the time to this news. Emotion slipped into Muhammad's voice when she answered:
Total disbelief and horror. Then they asked me "Do you think he could do something like this? I looked up at the ceiling and I was like, "Yeah."
And they said "Why would you think that?"
And I said "We were watching a movie. I don't remember the name of it. And he said "I could take a small city and terrorize it. They would think it would be a group of people and it would only be me." And I said: "Why would you do something like that? And he changed the subject.
And that's when the police asked me if I wanted to go into protective custody.
Seven years have passed since the shootings that indeed terrified the Washington DC region, coming as they did while nerves were still frayed from the 9/11 attacks. John Allen Muhammad is scheduled to be put to death in Virginia on Nov. 10 while his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
During that time, Mildred Muhammad has stayed out of public view, raising the three children she had with her ex-husband and becoming an advocate for domestic-abuse victims.
Now she has a new book, "Scared Silent" in which she describes the ordeal of living with an increasingly manipulative man who threatened her with death and the difficulty she had in getting the outside world to hear her calls for help before he became a mass killer. It was excerpted in the Washington Post on Sunday.
A point Mildred Muhammad made repeatedly was that while society is accustomed to paying attention to abuse victims with physical scars, its much less attentive to those who are the victims of psychological abuse as she was.
She told Michel:
"I did not have the physical scars to prove that I was a victim of domestic violence. And unfortunately, there are many women and men who are in that same category. Eighty percent of domestic violence is not physical; 20 percent is. It is because that I did not have the physical scars to prove I was a victim of domestic violence that my help was very slow in coming."
Many of the details Mildred Muhammad described during her Tell Me More interview of her life prior to her ex-husband's arrest were reported after her ex-husband's arrest and during the trial.
For instance, he changed after being roughly treated during his Army deployment to the Persian Gulf in 1991 in which he felt unfairly targeted for being black. Once an outgoing considerate husband, father and friend, he became paranoid and hostile, especially towards her.
She believes and prosecutors asserted that his plan was to eventually kill his ex-wife to clear the way for his taking custody of the three children. The Washington-area shootings were meant as a way to mask his role in his planned killing of her.
It's one thing for someone to say they're going to kill you but then to see the work that was put in trying to disguise it, I still have not wrapped my brain around that fact. We were married for 12 years. We had three children. I don't understand why he hated me so much to the point wheres he wanted to kill me. And it would have been one shot right in the head and that was it. Because he was one shot, one kill.
But until now there haven't been many details on what had become of her and her children since the trials of her ex husband and Malvo.
She has remarried, her new husband also surnamed Muhammad his five children added to her three.
Her son by the convicted killer is in college while their daughters in high school. They have no relationship with their biological father.
Asked if she had any thoughts on her ex-spouse's scheduled execution, she hesitated for a few seconds, then answered simply and emphatically. "No."
Update at 8:05 a.m. ET, Oct. 6: The audio of Michel's conversation with Muhammad will be posted here around noon ET today.