John Allen Muhammad

John Allen Muhammad

John Allen Muhammad

Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad
Background information
Birth name: John Allen Williams
Also known as: The Beltway Sniper
The D.C. Sniper
The Washington Sniper
Born: December 31, 1960(1960-12-31)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Died: November 10, 2009 (aged 48)
Jarratt, Virginia
Cause of death: Execution by lethal injection
Number of victims: 10 deaths, 3 injured (D.C./Beltway area); 11 victims elsewhere
Span of killings: September 5, 2002–October 23, 2002
Country: United States
State(s): Alabama, Arizona, California, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas and Virginia
Date apprehended: October 24, 2002

John Allen Muhammad (December 31, 1960 – November 10, 2009) was a spree killer from the United States. With his younger partner, Lee Boyd Malvo, he carried out the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks, killing at least 10 people. Muhammad and Malvo were arrested in connection with the attacks on October 24, 2002, following tips from alert citizens.

Born as John Allen Williams, Muhammad joined the Nation of Islam in 1987 and later changed his surname to Muhammad.[1] Drawings by Malvo describe the murders as part of a “jihad” (Arabic for “struggle in the way of God”). [2] At Muhammad’s trial, the prosecutor claimed that the rampage was part of a plot to kill his ex-wife and regain custody of his children, but the judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support this argument.[3]

His trial for one of the murders (the murder of Dean Harold Meyers in Prince William County, Virginia) began in October 2003, and the following month, he was found guilty of capital murder. Four months later he was sentenced to death. While awaiting execution in Virginia, in August 2005, he was extradited to Maryland to face some of the charges there, for which he was convicted of six counts of first-degree murder on May 30, 2006. Upon completion of the trial activity in Maryland, he was returned to Virginia’s death row pending an agreement with another state or the District of Columbia seeking to try him. He was not tried on additional charges in other Virginia jurisdictions, and faced potential trials in three other states and the District of Columbia involving other deaths and serious woundings. All appeals of his conviction for killing Dean Harold Meyers had been made and rejected. Appeals for Muhammad’s other trials remained pending at the time of his execution.

Muhammad was executed by lethal injection on November 10, 2009, at 9:06 PM EST at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia, and was pronounced dead at 9:11 PM EST. [4] Muhammad declined to make a final statement. [5]


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Early life

Born as John Allen Williams in New Orleans, Louisiana, Muhammad enlisted in the Louisiana Army National Guard in 1978 and, after seven years of service, volunteered for active duty in 1985. In 1987 he joined the Nation of Islam.[6] While in the Army, Muhammad was trained as a mechanic, truck driver and specialist metalworker. He qualified with the Army’s standard infantry rifle the M16, earning the Expert Rifleman’s Badge. This rating is the Army’s highest of three levels of marksmanship for a basic soldier. He was discharged from military service following the Gulf War, as a sergeant, in 1994.[1]

As a member of the Nation of Islam, Muhammad helped provide security for the “Million Man March” in 1995, but Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has publicly distanced himself and his organization from Muhammad’s crimes.[7] Muhammad moved out of the country and spent time with his children in Antigua around 1999, apparently engaging in credit card and immigration document fraud activities. It was during this time that he became close with Lee Boyd Malvo, who later acted as his partner in the killings. Williams changed his name to John Allen Muhammad in October 2001.

After his arrest, authorities also claimed that Muhammad admitted that he admired and modeled himself after Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and approved of the September 11 attacks. One of Malvo’s psychiatric witnesses testified in his trial that Muhammad had indoctrinated him into believing that the proceeds of the extortion attempt would be used to begin a new nation of only young, “pure” black people somewhere in Canada. Muhammad witnessed the Mark Essex shootout live on television when he was 12.

Muhammad was twice divorced; his second wife, Mildred Muhammad, sought and was granted a restraining order. Muhammad was arrested on federal charges of violating the restraining order against him by possessing a weapon. Defense attorneys in the Malvo trial and the prosecution in Muhammad’s trial argued that the ultimate goal of the killings was to kill Mildred so he would regain custody of his three children.[8]

Beltway sniper attacks

Police followed a lead in which an anonymous caller (presumably Muhammad) told a priest to tell the police to check out a liquor store robbery-murder that had occurred in Montgomery, Alabama. Investigators responding to that crime scene found one of the suspects had dropped a magazine with his fingerprints on it; these were subsequently identified as belonging to a 17-year-old Jamaican immigrant Lee Boyd Malvo, whose prints were on file with the INS. Malvo was known to associate with Muhammad. They had lived together in Tacoma, Washington for around one year, where Malvo used the alias John Lee Malvo.[citation needed] Muhammad’s identification led to the discovery that he had purchased a former police car, a blue Chevrolet Caprice, in New Jersey on September 11, 2002. A lookout broadcast to the public on that vehicle resulted in their arrest when it was spotted parked in a Maryland rest area on Interstate 70.

Beltway sniper attack victims

Listed in chronological order, these are the names of the victims who were murdered or wounded in the Beltway sniper attacks.

Name Age Status Date of Attack Location
James Martin 55 Killed October 2, 2002, 6:04 PM Wheaton, Maryland
James Buchanan 39 Killed October 3, 2002, 7:41 AM Rockville, Maryland
Premkumar Walekar 54 Killed October 3, 2002, 8:12 AM Aspen Hill, Maryland
Sarah Ramos 34 Killed October 3, 2002, 8:37 AM Silver Spring, Maryland
Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera 25 Killed October 3, 2002, 9:58 AM Kensington, Maryland
Pascal Charlot 72 Killed October 3, 2002, 9:20 PM Washington, D.C.
Caroline Seawell 43 Survived October 4, 2002, 2:30 PM Fredericksburg, Virginia
Iran Brown 13 Survived October 7, 2002, 8:09 AM Bowie, Maryland
Dean Harold Meyers 53 Killed October 9, 2002, 8:18 PM Manassas, Virginia
Kenneth Bridges 53 Killed October 11, 2002, 9:40 AM Fredericksburg, Virginia
Linda Franklin 47 Killed October 14, 2002, 9:19 PM Falls Church, Virginia
Jeffrey Hopper 37 Survived October 19, 2002, 8:00 PM Ashland, Virginia
Conrad Johnson 35 Killed October 22, 2002, 5:55 AM Aspen Hill, Maryland

These victims have also been linked to Muhammad and Malvo:

  • Keenya Cook
  • Jerry Ray Taylor
  • Paul La Ruffa
  • Rupinder Oberoi
  • Muhammad Rahid
  • Million Woldemariam
  • Claudine Lee Parker
  • Kellie Adams
  • Hong Im Ballenger
  • Wright Williams, Jr.
  • Billy Gene Dillon

Criminal case

Muhammad was captured in Maryland, where most of the attacks and murders took place. Although Maryland sought to bring him to trial, United States attorney general John Ashcroft reassigned[9] the case from the Maryland prosecutor Doug Gansler, a Democrat, to a Republican prosecutor in Virginia, Jerry W. Kilgore. Kilgore was planning to run for governor.[10][11]

In October 2003, Muhammad went on trial for the murder of Dean Meyers at a Prince William County service station near the city of Manassas. The trial had been moved from Prince William County, to Virginia Beach, approximately 200 miles away. Muhammad was granted the right to represent himself in his defense, and dismissed his legal counsel, though he immediately switched back to having legal representation after his opening argument. Muhammad was charged with murder, terrorism, conspiracy and the illegal use of a firearm, and faced a possible death sentence. Prosecutors said the shootings were part of a plot to extort $10 million from local and state governments. The prosecution said that they would make the case for 16 shootings allegedly involving Muhammad. The terrorism charge against Muhammad required prosecutors to prove he committed at least two shootings in a three-year period.

The prosecution called more than 130 witnesses and introduced more than 400 pieces of evidence intended to prove that Muhammad undertook the murders and ordered Malvo to help carry it out. Evidence included a rifle, found in Muhammad’s car, that was linked by ballistics tests not only to 8 of the 10 killings in the Washington area but also to 2 others, in Louisiana and Alabama; the car itself, which was modified so that a sniper could shoot from inside the trunk; and a laptop computer, also found in the car, that contained maps with icons pinpointing shooting scenes.

There were also witness accounts that put Muhammad across the street from one shooting and his car near the scene of several others. There was also a recorded phone call to a police hotline in which a man, his voice identified by a detective as Muhammad’s, demanded money in exchange for stopping the shootings.

Muhammad’s defense asked the court to drop the capital murder charges due to the fact that there was no direct evidence. Malvo’s fingerprints were on the Bushmaster rifle found in Muhammad’s car, and genetic material from Muhammad himself was also discovered on the rifle, but the defense contended that Muhammad could not be put to death under Virginia’s “trigger-man law” unless he actually pulled the trigger to kill Meyers, and no one testified that they saw him do so.

On November 17, 2003, by verdict of his jury, Muhammad was convicted in Virginia of all four counts in the indictment against him: capital murder for the shooting of Dean H. Meyers; a second charge of capital murder under Virginia’s antiterrorism statute, for homicide committed with an intent to terrorize the government or the public at large; conspiracy to commit murder; and the illegal use of a firearm. In the penalty phase of the trial, the jury after five hours of deliberation over two days unanimously recommended that Muhammad should be sentenced to death. On March 9, 2004, a Virginia judge agreed with the jury’s recommendation and sentenced John Allen Muhammad to death.

On April 22, 2005, the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed his death penalty, stating that Muhammad could be sentenced to death because the murder was part of an act of terrorism. The court also rejected an argument by defense lawyers that he could not be sentenced to death because he was not the triggerman in the killings done
by Muhammad and his young accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo. Virginia Supreme Court Justice Donald W. Lemons said at the time, “With calculation, extensive planning, premeditation and ruthless disregard for life, Muhammad carried out his cruel scheme of terror.”

In May 2005, Maryland and Virginia reached an agreement to allow his extradition to face Maryland charges, but Muhammad was fighting the action legally. He was held at the maximum security Sussex I State Prison near Waverly in Sussex County, Virginia, which houses Virginia’s death row inmates. While awaiting execution in Virginia, in August 2005, he was extradited to Montgomery County, Maryland to face charges there.

On May 30, 2006, a Maryland jury found John Allen Muhammad guilty of six counts of murder in Maryland. In return, he was sentenced to six consecutive life terms without possibility of parole on June 1, 2006. Neither Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, or Washington State moved to try Muhammad, given his death sentence for murder in Virginia. In 2006, Malvo confessed that the pair also killed victims in California, Arizona, and Texas, making 17 victims.

On May 6, 2008, it was revealed that Muhammad asked prosecutors in a letter to help him end legal appeals of his conviction and death sentence “so that you can murder this innocent black man.” An appeal filed by Muhammad’s defense lawyers in April 2008 cited evidence of brain damage that would render Muhammad incompetent to make legal decisions, and that he should not have been allowed to represent himself at his Virginia trial.[12]

On September 16, 2009, Muhammad’s execution date was set for November 10, 2009.[13][14] On November 9, 2009, Muhammad’s death sentence appeal was denied by the US Supreme Court.[15][16] Justice Stevens, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor, wrote a separate opinion stating that Virginia’s rush to set an execution date “highlights once again the perversity of executing inmates before their appeals process have been fully concluded”,[17] while noting that they concurred with the decision that the appeal ought not be heard.

Civil case

In 2003, Malvo and Muhammad were named in a major civil lawsuit by the Legal Action Project of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence on behalf of two of their victims who were seriously wounded and the families of some of those murdered. Although Malvo and Muhammad were each believed to be indigent, codefendants Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply and Bushmaster Firearms, Inc. contributed to a landmark $2.5 million out-of-court settlement in late 2004.

Testimony of Lee Boyd Malvo

In John Allen Muhammad’s May 2006 trial in Montgomery County, Maryland, Lee Boyd Malvo, who is serving a sentence of life without parole for his role in the shootings, took the stand and confessed to a more detailed version of the pair’s plans. Malvo, after extensive psychological counseling, admitted that he was lying at the earlier Virginia trial where he had admitted to being the triggerman for every shooting. Malvo claimed that he had said this in order to protect John Allen Muhammad from the potential death penalty, because it was more difficult to achieve the death penalty for a minor. Malvo said that he wanted to do what little he could for the families of the victims by letting the full story be told. In his two days of testimony, Malvo outlined many very detailed aspects of all the shootings.

Part of his testimony concerned Muhammad’s complete multiphase plan. His plan consisted of three phases in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore metro areas. Phase One consisted of meticulously planning, mapping, and practicing their locations around the DC area. This way after each shooting they would be able to quickly leave the area on a predetermined path, and move on to the next location. John Allen Muhammad’s goal in Phase One was to kill 6 white people a day for 30 days (180 per month). Malvo went on to describe how Phase One did not go as planned due to heavy traffic and the lack of a clear shot and/or getaway at different locations.

Phase Two was meant to be moved up to Baltimore. Malvo described how this phase was close to being implemented, but never was carried out. Phase Two would begin with the killing of a pregnant woman with a shot to the abdomen. The next step would have been to shoot and kill a Baltimore City police officer. Then, at the officer’s funeral, they were to detonate several improvised explosive devices complete with shrapnel. These explosives were intended to kill a large number of officers, since many of them would be at a comrade’s funeral.

Phase Three was to take place very shortly after, if not during, Phase Two. The third phase was to extort several million dollars from the United States government. This money would be used to finance a larger plan to travel north into Canada, stopping along the way in YMCAs and orphanages recruiting other impressionable young boys with no parents or guidance. John Allen Muhammad thought he could act as their father figure as he did with Lee Boyd Malvo. Once he recruited a large number of young boys and made his way up to Canada, he would begin their training. Malvo described how Muhammad allegedly intended to train the youths with weapons. After their training was complete, Muhammad would send them out across the United States to carry out mass shootings in many different cities, just as he had done in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.[18][19][20]


On September 16, 2009, a Virginia judge set a November 10, 2009, execution date for Muhammad.[13][14] On November 9, 2009, the Supreme Court of the United States refused a last-minute appeal.[15][16] On November 10, hours before Muhammad’s scheduled execution, pleas for clemency made by his attorneys were denied by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine.[21][22]

Under Virginia law, an inmate is allowed to choose the method by which he or she will be put to death, either lethal injection or the electric chair. Because Muhammad declined to select a method, by law, th
e method of lethal injection was selected for him. He was offered a selection of a last meal, which he accepted, but refused publication of its contents. However, Muhammad’s former attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, against Muhammad’s wishes, told the Associated Press that his last meal consisted of “chicken and red sauce, and some strawberry cakes”.[23]

The execution began at 9:00 PM EST at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia.[24][25] According to the official statement of the prison spokesperson, the actual lethal injection process started at 9:06 PM EST. He was then pronounced dead at 9:11 PM EST; he declined to make a final statement.[26][27]</ref> His family plans to bury Muhammad in his native Louisiana.[28]


  1. ^ a b Muhammad a Gulf War vet, Islam convert, CNN, January 26, 2004.
  2. ^ “Rehabbing The D.C. Snipers”, Investor’s Business Daily, October 17, 2007.
  3. ^ – “Muhammad told ex-wife, ‘I will kill you’, she says”, CNN, November 20, 2003.
    Horwitz, Ruane. Sniper: Inside the Hunt for the Killers Who Terrorized the Nation: Random House (ISBN 0-345-47662-x)
  4. ^ FOX News coveraged of Muhammad’s execution
  5. ^ CNN report on Muhammad’s execution
  6. ^ CNN online. U.S. Muhammad a Gulf War vet, Islam convert: Ex-wife described as ‘in shock’ over Muhammad’s arrest, Monday, January 26, 2004
  7. ^ Minister Louis Farrakhan addresses sniper arrest
  8. ^ Sniper’s ex-wife: Muhammad was ‘magnet’ for children
  9. ^ United States Department of Justice – Statement Of The Attorney General of the United States in re: Jurisdictional Motions of the Several States Seeking Relief For Primary Jurisdiction; Awarding of Jurisdiction to the Commonwealth of Virginia, The Commonwealth’s Attorney for Prince William County.
  10. ^ D.C. sniper set to be executed Tuesday“. LA Times. 2009-09-16.,0,3520756.story. Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  11. ^ Timeline: Investigation and court case“. CBC News. 2006-05-24. Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  12. ^ “D.C. sniper wants to drop death row appeals”
  13. ^ a b Markon, Jerry (2009-09-17). “Nov. Execution Date Set for Muhammad“. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  14. ^ a b Execution date set for US sniper“. BBC News Online. 2009-09-16. Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  15. ^ a b Barnes, Robert (2009-11-09). “Supreme court denies request to stay D.C. sniper’s execution“. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  16. ^ a b Savage, David G. (2009-11-09). “Supreme Court refuses to halt Beltway sniper’s execution“. Los Angeles Times.,0,866968.story. Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  17. ^ Stevens, John Paul (2009-11-09). “Statement of Stevens, J. On Application for Stay and on Petition For a Writ of Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit“. Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  18. ^ Mount, Harry (2006-06-25). “The sniper’s plan: kill six whites a day for 30 days“. Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-07-17. 
  19. ^ Montaldo, Charles (2006-05-25). “Malvo Outlines Snipers’ Plan of Terror“. Retrieved 2007-07-17. 
  20. ^ Ahlers, Mike (2006-05-23). “Malvo: Muhammad ‘made me a monster’ Younger man cross-examined by former mentor in sniper trial“. CNN. Retrieved 2007-07-17. 
  21. ^ Kaine denies sniper clemency; Muhammad to die tonight
  22. ^ Official News Release of Governor Kaine denying Muhammad’s appeal for clemency
  23. ^ “Sniper John Allen Muhammed executed”
  24. ^ DC Sniper Mastermind Set to Be Executed
  25. ^ Associated Press. “Kaine Clears Way for D.C. Sniper’s Execution“. NBC Washington. 
  26. ^ Potter, Dena (2009-11-10). “DC sniper Muhammad executed for 2002 attacks“. Yahoo news. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  27. ^ Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Corrections Announcement Of Death Press Conference, as carried on CNN.
  28. ^ Larry King Live interview of Muhammad’s ex-wife and son, November 9, 2009.

External links

NAME Muhammad, John Allen
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Williams, John Allen (birth name)
DATE OF BIRTH December 31, 1960
PLACE OF BIRTH New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
DATE OF DEATH November 10, 2009
PLACE OF DEATH Jarratt, Virginia, U.S.

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