The D.C. sniper attacks were a series of shootings that put the Washington Metropolitan area on high alert for three weeks in October 2002. The shootings happened in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC areas. Ten people were shot and killed and three others were critically wounded in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area and along Interstate 95 in Virginia.
The crime spree came to a close at 3:15 a.m. on October 24, 2002, when John Allen Muhammad, who was 41-years-old at the time, and Lee Boyd Malvo, who was 17-years-old at the time, were found sleeping in a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice at a rest stop off of Interstate 70 in Maryland. The two were arrested on federal weapons charges.
A stolen Bushmaster .223-caliber weapon equipped with an EOTech holographic weapon sight and bipod were found in a bag in Muhammad’s car and ballistics later linked the seized rifle to 11 of the 14 shootings. The Chevrolet Caprice’s trunk was modified to serve as a “rolling sniper’s nest” to allow a person access to the trunk and once inside, the sniper could take shots with a small hole near the license plate created for that purpose.
In addition to the Washington Metropolitan area murders, Muhammad and Malvo also committed murders and robberies in the states of Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and Washington. Prior to the D.C. sniper attacks, the duo killed seven people.
During pre-trial motions, investigators and prosecutors theorized that Muhammad planned on killing his second ex-wife Mildred Muhammad and the other shootings were intended to cover up the motive for the crime. However, Judge LeRoy Millette Jr., who became senior justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, prevented prosecutors from presenting that theory during the trial.
Prior to the case going to trial, Chief of Police for Montgomery County, Charles Moose went on a publicity tour for a book that he had written on the case.
At the time, Assistant Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney James Willett told The Washington Post, “Personally, I don’t understand why someone who’s been in law enforcement his whole life would potentially damage our case or compromise a jury pool by doing this.”
As such, a change of venue request was granted and the first trials were held in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. During their trials in the fall of 2003, Muhammad and Malvo were each found guilty of murder and weapons charges. Muhammad’s jury recommended that he be sentenced to death, while Malvo’s jury recommended life in prison without parole instead because he was under 18 when he committed the crimes.
During his Maryland trial, Muhammad was found 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.
While testifying against Muhammad, Malvo pleaded guilty to six murders and confessed to others in other states. He was sentenced to six consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole, but in 2017, his Virginia sentence was overturned after an appeal with re-sentencing ordered pursuant to the Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Miller v. Alabama, which voided mandatory life-sentence punishments for juvenile criminals as legally unconstitutional. However, the ruling does not apply to the six life sentences Malvo received in Maryland.
Meanwhile, on April 22, 2005, Muhammad’s death penalty was affirmed by the Virginia Supreme Court when it ruled that he could be sentenced to death because the murder was part of an act of terrorism.
On Nov. 10, 2009, Muhammad was executed by lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia. Before he was executed, Muhammed said, “I love you, brother,” to Maryland attorney J. Wyndal Gordon. According to the Maryland lawyer told the condemned man he loved him back.
When asked if he had any last words, Muhammad said nothing. The execution was witnessed by 27 people, including victims’ family members.