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 injection.
Muhammad, a man who directed what many law enforcement officials consider one of the worst outbreaks of crime in the nation's history, died in Virginia's death chamber while relatives of his victims looked on.
One of the witnesses was Nelson Rivera of Sacramento. His wife, Lori, then 25 years old, was gunned down Oct. 3, 2002, at a Silver Spring, Md., gas station.
Muhammad and Jamaican immigrant Lee Boyd Malvo, then 17, killed 10 people in the Washington area during a terrifying October 2002 rampage; they have been linked to shootings in several other states.
State authorities escorted Muhammad into a small room at Greensville Correctional Center and strapped him to a table. He was then injected with a series of lethal drugs beginning at 9:06 p.m. EST and he was pronounced dead at 9:11 p.m. Although he maintained his innocence to the 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 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 asked whether he wanted to say anything, he did not respond.
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.
In the end, Muhammad and Malvo were tracked down because of a fingerprint left at an Alabama shooting referred to in one of the notes the snipers left behind. Investigators put that together with Muhammad's purchase of the dark blue Chevy in New Jersey, a stolen Bushmaster rifle from Washington state and an alert truck driver who noticed the Caprice at a highway rest stop in Maryland.
Despite scores of witnesses and hundreds of pieces of evidence — the sum of which pointed directly at Muhammad and Malvo and led to capital murder convictions — law enforcement officials have not pinned down a solid motive for the shootings and cannot say for sure who specifically fired the fatal shots.
Virginia chosen for a reason
Muhammad was convicted in 2003 of a single killing — the Oct. 9, 2002, sniper slaying of Dean Harold Meyers of Gaithersburg, Md., who was shot shortly after 8 p.m. at a Sunoco station outside Manassas, Va.
Federal authorities chose the Meyers case because Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert had a stellar record in capital cases and Virginia was known for its speedy appeals process.
The decision paid off. Just six years after Muhammad's conviction, he was put to death, having exhausted every legal option.
The Supreme Court denied his final request for a stay Monday, and Virginia Democratic Gov. Timothy Kaine rejected his clemency request Tuesday.
Muhammad's appellate attorneys have long argued that their client is mentally ill and that he was incompetent to represent himself and perhaps even to stand trial. They decried Virginia's haste in executing him.