Convicted Sniper John Allen Muhammad To Be Executed at 9 P.M.

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D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad is scheduled to be executed Tuesday night in Virginia. Muhammad was given the death penalty for the murder of Dean Harold Meyers, who was shot while pumping gas. In total, Muhammad and his teenage accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, fatally shot 13 people in the Washington, D.C., area in the Fall of 2002. Host Michel Martin talks to Washington Post staff writer Mike Ruane, who has covered the story and co-authored the book Sniper: Inside the Hunt for the Killers Who Terrorized the Nation.


Im Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Coming up, what about retiring? We asked whether older Americans who are out of work might be better off retiring than continuing to pound the pavement. Well talk to our Money Coach about that in just a few minutes.

But first, were going to go back to the fall of 2002. People began to die and nobody knew why. Vacuuming out a mini van, loading groceries into a car, pumping gas, just a year after the September 11th terrorist attacks and the anthrax-filled litters, the randomness was terrifying. Who would do such a thing, and why? By the end of October there was an answer to the first question. John Allen Muhammad, acting with his younger accomplish Lee Boyd Malvo, were arrested and charged with randomly killing 15 people, 10 of them in Washington, D.C. area and injuring seven others. Tonight at 9:00 p.m. John Allen Muhammad is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection for the murder of one victim, Dean Harold Meyers.

Michael Ruane has covered the story for the Washington Post since 2002. He co-authored a book about the murders called Sniper: Inside the Hunt for the Killers Who Terrorized the Nation. And he joins us now in our Washington, D.C. studio to talk about all this. Thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. MICHAEL RUANE (Author): My pleasure.

MARTIN: Just for those who dont remember, could you just take us back to those, take us back to the fall of 2002. How did this all started?

Mr. RUANE: Yeah. It started the evening of October 2nd with a man walking across a supermarket parking lot, going to buy some groceries. And there was a gunshot and he was down and dead in the parking lot. And no one sort of knew what the problem was and then the next morning it started in earnest. There were a whole series of shootings, sort of boom, boom, boom, boom right after, one after another that morning.

MARTIN: How did authorities finally put it together? How did they finally catch the two?

Mr. RUANE: Well, they realized by part way through the following morning that there was a serial attack underway. And over the course of time the - over the course of the next three weeks enough information leaked out so that they could identify the perpetrators and they were found in a - the parking lot of a rest stop on an interstate in rural Maryland.

MARTIN: How - I had the opportunity to speak with John Allen Muhammads ex-wife, Mildred Mohammed, and as I believe you did also. She firmly believes that this was a complex plot for Muhammad to regain custody of their children, who he had previously kidnapped. This was all a way to create this sort of smoke screen so that he could then not only reclaim the children from whom hed lost custody but also be a hero in the process. Do you think thats true?

Mr. RUANE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, these two people were at war - war to the death with each other. He had threatened to kill her when they lived in Tacoma. He told her you will never raise my children. You know, he she got custody of the kids in the beginning. He took them away from her. The authorities discovered him in Bellingham, Washington, took the children back. And I think that what brought him here was his discovery that she was somewhere in this area.

MARTIN: I asked Mildred Muhammad her opinion of the sentence meted out to John Allen Muhammad. This is what she said.

(Soundbite of archived recording)

MARTIN: Mrs. Muhammad, forgive me, John Muhammad is currently scheduled to be executed on November 10th. His accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, is sentenced to life without parole. Do you have an opinion about those sentences?

Ms. MILDRED MUHAMMAD (Author, Scared Silent): No.

Mr. RUANE: Wow.

MARTIN: Obviously, this is the father of her children. So perhaps her feelings about this are rather complex. But what about the other victims? I know youve had the opportunity to speak with the families of many of the victims. What is their view about whats happened until and whats scheduled to take place today?

Mr. RUANE: It varies. Some people dont want to talk about it anymore. One man, who I knew pretty well, whose wife was killed, practically hung up and said, you know, I dont Ive moved on, Ive remarried, Im not involved in it anymore. Other people are interested in seeing him die. They want to be there. They want to watch it. There is a little sort of flavor of vengeance or retribution about their attitudes. And other people are just interested in justice.

Dean Martin Dean Meyers family is, you know, wants to be there out of loyalty to him. They feel they owe it to him. They have been they went to the trial and theyve been there every step of the way and its just sort of a sense of justice and loyalty.

MARTIN: What about the young man, Lee Boyd Malvo. Hes 24 now. Hell spend the rest of his life in maximum security prison barring some extraordinary circumstances. And of course theres now some discussions in the Supreme Court about whether - I mean, of course, these were capital offences, so its a different issue. But there is some discussion now about people who commit these kind of heinous crimes as juveniles, whether there should be some consideration, but thats a whole other conversation. But what is he up to now? Does he where is he on understanding - what happened and why he got caught up in all that?

Mr. RUANE: You know, I dont know exactly where he is. I know that, you know, he, its my understanding he has taken some responsibility and has some remorse and realizes that, you know, what he did and - but I really dont know, you know, kind of where he stands on that.

MARTIN: And finally, I want to ask about the toll of covering a crime like this for such a long period of time. And I would like to ask you if you think it had an effect on you?

Mr. RUANE: I dont know. Ive been in the business a long time. Ive covered a lot of horrible stuff. Its part of our job. You know, we know how to do it. Youre always glad that youre sitting on the other side of the coffee table.

MARTIN: Michael Ruane is a Washington Post staff writer. Hes author of the book Sniper: Inside the Hunt for the Killers Who Terrorized A Nation. He was kind enough to join us here on our Washington, D.C. studios. Thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. RUANE: Youre welcome.

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