A defiant John Allen Muhammad, who terrified the Washington area in 2002 as he orchestrated a series of sniper shootings, including 10 murders, was executed by lethal injection Tuesday night.
Muhammad, 48, was pronounced dead at 9:11 p.m., said Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Asked whether he wanted to make a last statement, Muhammad “did not acknowledge us,” Traylor said outside the Greensville Correctional Center. The execution took place without incident, he said.
Issuing a statement on behalf of Muhammad’s family and lawyers, attorney Jonathan Sheldon said they “deeply sympathize with the families and loved ones” of the victims, and offered “prayers for a better future” for those left behind.
As his execution drew near, Muhammad “accepted his fate,” said another of his lawyers, J. Wyndal Gordon. “He has no remorse because he maintains his innocence.”
During the day, Muhammad met with members of his family, including an adult son. For his last meal he ate chicken with red sauce and cake, Gordon said. Muhammad’s family said they would hold a news conference today in Richmond, Va., where they will release a statement from him.
The execution comes seven years after Muhammad and his then-17-year-old accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, terrified the Washington area with a shooting rampage from Baltimore to Richmond, beginning on Sept. 5, 2002.
The first victim, a restaurant owner in Clinton, Md., was robbed and shot six times, but survived.
The rampage began to grip the Washington area on Oct. 3, when four people were shot in separate incidents, three of them fatally.
Muhammad and Malvo killed without apparent plan or purpose, using a rifle to pick off people going about routine tasks. Victims died while pumping gas, vacuuming a minivan, sitting on a park bench. The lack of any discernible pattern raised anxiety and prompted people to dart and weave as they walked to make more difficult targets.
Eventually, the snipers demanded $10 million to stop the killing. The FBI used fingerprints on ransom notes to trace the pair to Washington state, where police say their shootings began. After the bureau posted an alert for a 1990 Chevy Caprice, Muhammad and Malvo were arrested while asleep at a highway rest stop in Maryland in the early hours of Oct. 24, 2002.
Authorities said the car had been modified into “a killing machine,” with a hole cut in the trunk for a rifle barrel.
The pair are also suspected of killings in other states, including Alabama, Louisiana and Arizona, beginning in February 2002.
“This was a nationwide murder spree by a serial killer without any motivation other than to wreak terror upon the community,” said Maryland Atty. Gen. Douglas Gansler, who was the Montgomery County state’s attorney in 2002. “And he did paralyze an entire community for weeks.”
The Jamaican-born Malvo, now 24, was also convicted. Because of his age, he was sentenced to life without parole in 2004.
Muhammad was executed for the murder of Dean Harold Meyers, who was shot in the head at a gas station in Manassas, Va., on the evening of Oct. 9, 2002.
Gansler called the punishment appropriate.
“If you have a death penalty in a state, John Muhammad is the poster child for who should get the death penalty,” Gansler said Monday, likening him to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh, executed in 2001 for killing 168 people.
Gansler said Muhammad was in effect being punished for the nine other murders he and Malvo committed in the Washington area.
Six of the murders took place in Maryland, three in Virginia and one in Washington. Other victims were wounded, including a 13-year-old boy who had just been dropped off at middle school.
Then-U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft sent Muhammad and Malvo to be tried in Virginia, where death sentences are promptly carried out.
Earlier Tuesday, Gov. Tim Kaine denied Muhammad clemency. And on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Muhammad’s bid to halt the execution.
So many relatives of the victims were on hand that the prison could not accommodate all of them, Traylor said.
Sonia Wills, mother of one of the victims, Montgomery County bus driver Conrad Johnson, traveled from Dallas to be on the prison grounds, but did not want to witness the execution. “He needs to be gone from this Earth,” she said before the execution. “That man has caused too much disturbance in everyone’s life.”
After Muhammad’s death, Wills said, “I will breathe a sigh of relief.”